updated 12/27/2007 8:15:49 PM ET 2007-12-28T01:15:49

Cyberattacks in Europe, theft of intellectual property in Asia, natural disasters in Latin America and terror on many continents were among the threats U.S. businesses faced in 2007, according to a U.S. State Department report.

In Europe, two weeks of attacks by computer interlopers that crippled government and corporate Web sites beginning in late April raised a new worry that U.S. companies also could be vulnerable to attack by computer.

"It is vital to recognize that these attacks can easily be replicated against a new target, including the U.S. private sector," the State Department's Overseas Security Advisory Council warned in its annual report, released Thursday.

Among 10 security issues cited in the report, the council also warned of rising homegrown political radicalism and terror in Europe.

Intellectual property theft, terror, natural disasters and political instability were listed as the most serious security challenges in Asia.

The threat from fraud and theft of trade secrets has been rising exponentially, the report said. It cited China and India as countries of greatest concern and warned that much of the damage comes from within companies.

"OSAC advises that U.S. companies and other entities should take strong precautions against the insider threat, to safeguard communications systems and for the safekeeping of sensitive data," the report said.

Continuing political instability in Lebanon and terror attacks in Algeria were cited as the most alarming trends in the Middle East and North Africa.

In other parts of Africa, the report raised alarms about rising crime rates in many cities and a dramatic increase in kidnappings in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria that target workers of Western-owned oil companies.

Earthquakes and storms plagued U.S. business in Latin America in 2007, but the report also cited antagonism from governments, including those of Venezuela and Bolivia.

"Political conflict has emerged as a concern to the U.S. private sector in a few Latin American countries whose leaders have nationalized private industry and campaigned against U.S. interests through proposed constitutional referenda," the reports said.

The council's executive director, Todd Brown, urged U.S. companies to take heed of the developing threats and learn to protect themselves.

"Those U.S. entities that take proactive security postures, manage their risks and develop an internal culture of resiliency often are better able to survive and even thrive in riskier environments or in the aftermath of disasters," he said.

The council was established in 1985 to promote security cooperation between the State Department and American businesses.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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