–- Obama administration officials said Tuesday they have "serious concern" with China's alleged cyber-snooping and are raising the issue "at the highest levels" in Beijing, on the heels of a report that claimed China's People's Liberation Army had stolen data from 115 U.S. companies over a seven-year period.
U.S. officials would not comment directly on the report. But they said the U.S. is bulking up its cyber-defenses while stressing a new -- albeit controversial -- White House executive order aimed at helping protect computer networks of crucial American industries from cyber attacks.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stopped short of saying whether the U.S. was in a cyber-war with China.
But she and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said U.S. officials have started a dialogue with the "highest levels" of the Chinese government, including with "officials in the military."
"It is a major challenge for us in the national security arena," Carney said, adding that it is known that foreign countries and companies "swipe" sensitive U.S. information.
Pentagon spokesman George Little also said the U.S. is a "victim of cyber-attacks from various places around the world," and continues "to shore up our cyber defense which this department is doing."
Stolen information includes details on the proprietary process in some companies, blueprints and contact lists, according to the report.
The threat from China and other countries has already been setting off alarm bells in Washington.
During his State of the Union address on Feb. 12, President Obama acknowledged America's growing threat from cyber-attacks without mentioning China by name.
Obama signed an executive order aimed at helping protect computer networks of crucial American industries from cyber attacks. His order calls for the development of voluntary standards to protect the computer systems that run critical sectors of the economy -- such as transportation and banking industries.