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Foreign hackers are targeting more US government agencies, report says

Hacking: the counterintelligence tool of choice.

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More groups are trying to hack US spy agencies, as well as the private sector and government agencies not typically associated with national security, says a government report.

Angela Lang/CNET

More foreign countries, militias and other groups are targeting US intelligence agencies with hacking, according to a report Monday from the National Counterintelligence and Security Center. Not only that, but they're increasingly targeting the private sector and government agencies that aren't directly involved in national security, says the report, which outlines a strategy for addressing the hacking threat.

The strategic plan lists Russia, China, Iran and North Korea as major adversaries targeting the US with hacking, as well as Cuba and several non-state actors like Hezbollah, ISIS and Al Qaeda. Entities that hack or leak information for political purposes are also cited as threats in the report, in addition to "public disclosure organizations."

"With the private sector and democratic institutions increasingly under attack, this is no longer a problem the US government can address alone," said NCSC director William Evanina in a statement. "It requires a whole-of-society response involving the private sector, an informed American public, as well as our allies."

The report comes at a time of increased focus on the US' susceptibility to foreign hacking and election interference. It also comes the same day that the US Department of Justice announced it would indict four Chinese nationals in the 2017 hack of credit reporting agency Equifax.

Government agencies and private sector organizations are increasingly vulnerable because more of the world is connected to the internet, the report says. That includes the growth of the internet of things market, which connects more household devices -- and industrial processes -- to the internet. A range of other technical advancements including high-resolution imagery, encryption and big data analytics allow more entities to gain information that would have previously required more sophistication and deeper pockets to obtain, the report says.