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Tech companies look to stay ahead of hackers

America’s reliance on information technology these days is unprecedented, and the health of the U.S. economy is increasingly tied to our intellectual property. A Congressional hearing kick off in Washington today that's geared toward helping the private sector fight back.

The Commerce Department says American IP accounts for about 35 percent of the country’s GDP and 60 percent of our exports. But hackers, many of them in foreign countries, are working harder than ever to steal it.

“We are losing somewhere between $300 and $500 billion a year,” says former Washington Senator Slade Gorton, who is testifying at today’s Congressional hearing on cyber-espionage.

Gorton is now a member of the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property. The group says China is “50 to 80 percent of the problem” and some U.S. companies have brought lawsuits there, but corporations aren’t really set up for counterintelligence.

Microsoft, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and others are backing a new global standard to try to secure their IT supply chains.

“Overwhelmingly the companies are looking at defense,” says Jason Healey, Director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council. “That means they’re looking to improve security, and kick the bad guys out.”

Healey adds that more companies are now telling their shareholders about big security breaches, instead of passing them off to the IT guys.

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