In 2011, two Chinese nationals were convicted in federal court on charges of conspiring to violate the Arms Control Export Act after attempting to buy thousands of radiation-hardened microchips and sell them to China. The day the pair were sentenced to two years in prison for the plot, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Neil MacBride, called it an example of how "the line between traditional espionage, export violations and economic espionage has become increasingly blurred."
It's also an example of the increasing number of military and space technology espionage cases being uncovered in the U.S. each year, according to a new report from the Defense Security Service, which acts as the Pentagon's industrial security oversight agency. According to the report, first noted by InsideDefense.com, industrial espionage has grown "more persistent, pervasive and insidious" (.pdf) and that "regions with active or maturing space programs" are some of the most persistent "collectors" of sensitive radiation-hardened, or "rad-hard" microchips, an important component for satellites. And now with North Korea having successfully launched its first satellite, it's worth taking a close look.