American universities have become infected with foreign spies posing as humble students and researchers, who are working to steal government secrets and new technologies to take back to their own countries.
Untold numbers of foreign agents are hidden among the thousands of legitimate international students who are studying science, technology and engineering in the US.
China, Russia and Iran are among the nations who are attempting to exploit the culture of openness and transparency in American higher education.
Attempts by China and other East Asian countries to use academic channels to get their hands on classified information or corporate secrets rose eight-fold between 2009 and 2010, alone, Bloomberg reports
Similar attempts by Middle Eastern governments rose by two-fold last year.
'We have intelligence and cases indicating that U.S. universities are indeed a target of foreign intelligence services,' Frank Figliuzzi, the assistant director for counterintelligence for the FBI, told Bloomberg.
Several recent arrests and discoveries illustrate the point. Even the high-profile network of Russian sleeper agents that was dismantled in 2010 had ties to spying at American universities.
Lidiya Guryeva aka Cynthia Murphy, who lived a suburban life in Montclair, New Jersey, held multiple degrees from prestigious colleges like Columbia University and NYU.
According to Bloomberg, Guryeva received instructions from her Russian handlers to form 'ties w. classmates on daily basis incl. professors who can help in job search and who will have (or already have) access to secret info.' She was also told the look for potential targets 'to be recruited by Service.'
Iran also plays a role in academic spying. Michigan State University was struggling to keep its campus in Dubai open in 2009 when an Arab company stepped forward and promised to provide students and funding.
However, when MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon reached out to the CIA, agents said there was a possibility the company, which had Iranian investors, was really a front for the Iranian government.
Simon killed the deal and shut down part of the Dubai campus, costing the university $3.7 million.
However, on the academic spying front, China seems to be the biggest player of them all.
China employs up to 3,000 shell companies that it uses to try to acquire us technology secrets, Bloomberg reports.
It also has an army of student spies. Some of them are merely students who are coerced into spying. Others are plants posing as students -- trained foreign operatives with ulterior motives.
Professor Daniel J. Scheeres, who studies aerospace engineering, took on a student named Yu Xiaohong to study with him at the University of Michigan.
Scheeres, who studies the movement and control of spacecraft and objects in space, told Bloomberg Xiaohong listed a Chinese civilian university as her research background.
He never suspected she had ties to the Chinese military. However, on her American university documents, she listed her home as the Academy of Equipment Command & Technology -- a college for young Chinese military officers and cadets.
She had also written a lengthy article on upgrading the accuracy of Chinese anti-satellite weapons.
As Yu pressured him to reveal secrets about his research, Scheeres soon realized that her interests who not merely of a civilian nature.
'It was pretty clear to me that the stuff she was interested in probably had some military satellite-orbit applications,' he told Bloomberg.
Foreign intelligence services, especially the ones in China, are also looking to exploit American study-abroad programs as an opportunity to find and turn American students.
Such is the case of Glenn Duffie Shriver, a former student at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, who studied at East China Normal University in Shanghai.
After he graduated, Chinese intelligence service agents hooked up with him and paid him, more than $70,000 and sent him back to the US, where he applied to work for the CIA.
If accepted for a job, he admitted in 2011, he planned to sell secrets to the Chinese. He was sentenced to four years in federal prison.
'Study-abroad programs are an attractive target. Foreign security services find young, bright U.S. kids in science or politics, it’s worth winning them over,' Figliuzzi, the FBI counterintelligence director, told Bloomberg.
How long will it take this to make hot topics like the NASA spy caught spying for Israel did in less than a day?
Read it here: NASA Scientist Guilty Of Spying For Israel