China and Russia are using cyber espionage to steal U.S. trade and technology secrets to bolster their own economic development, which poses a threat to U.S. prosperity and security, according to a new U.S. intelligence report.

Both countries have targeted the computer networks of U.S. government agencies and universities, the report said.

Compiled as a report to Congress on foreign economic and industrial espionage over the past two years, the intelligence report presents a pointed case that China and Russia are leading actors in the Internet-based theft of economic secrets.

“Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage,” it added. “Russia’s intelligence services are conducting a range of activities to collect economic information and technology from U.S. targets.

China dismissed the U.S. report on online spying as irresponsible. Hong Lei, a representative of the Chinese foreign ministry, rejected the findings of the report, and repeated Beijing's long-standing position that it wants to help in this area.

Online attacks are notable for spanning national borders and being anonymous. Identifying the attackers without carrying out a comprehensive investigation and making inferences about the attackers is both unprofessional and irresponsible, Hong said at a daily news briefing in answer to a question about the report.

I hope the international community can abandon prejudice and work hard with China to maintain online security, he added.