Stories of Chinese government organizations hacking American corporations are not new. But in a segment aired on 60 Minutes tonight, business leaders, government officials and security experts paint a picture of a particularly sophisticated attack on the intellectual property of “thousands” of companies.

John Carlin, the assistant attorney general for National Security, gave a surprisingly candid interview to 60 Minutes about the problems posed by Chinese economic espionage, including widespread hacking:

“This is a serious threat to our national security. I mean, our economy depends on the ability to innovate. And if there’s a dedicated nation state who’s using its intelligence apparatus to steal day in and day out what we’re trying to develop, that poses a serious threat to our country.”

The report illustrates the problem with one particular example: the story of American Superconductor, a firm that makes control software for turbines. After working with a partner in China, it discovered that its partner bribed an employee to hand over source code, and hacked computer systems to try and steal more information, and keep an eye on the legal dispute.

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The full report is an eye-opening look into the problem of IP theft on an international scale; it’s also a rare example of government officials going on record about the scale of Chinese hacking, and exactly who’s to blame.

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[CBS]