UK accuses China of widespread industrial espionage

Lazy eyes listen


According to the chief of the domestic counter-intelligence organisation MI5, more than 20,000 people in the UK have been approached secretly online by Chinese agents looking to obtain industrial or technological secrets.

Ken McCallum, speaking at a ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence chiefs summit in California on Tuesday, said industrial espionage is happening on a “real scale,” and that 10,000 UK businesses are at risk of having trade secrets stolen.

The MI5 director general suggested that the domains of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and synthetic biology were particularly vulnerable, given that Beijing is ostensibly pursuing innovative expertise in these areas.

“Week by week, our teams detect massive amounts of covert activity by the likes of China in particular,” McCallum said, adding that the suspected espionage is not always aimed at government or military secrets, “but increasingly at promising start-ups.”

“If you’re working today at the cutting edge of technology then geopolitics is interested in you, even if you’re not interested in geopolitics,” he said.

McCallum claimed that one of Beijing’s primary strategies has been to pose as recruitment gurus on social media platforms such as LinkedIn. “We think we’re over 20,000 cases where that initial approach was made online through sites like that,” the intelligence head stated, without specifying a time frame for the statistics.

China has categorically denied allegations of espionage and various sorts of snooping.

However, speaking at the ‘Five Eyes’ conference, which also included the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that Beijing “has made economic espionage and stealing others’ work and ideas a central component of its national strategy.”

“That threat has only gotten more dangerous and insidious in recent years,” Wray claimed, adding that there are more than 2,000 open FBI investigations into alleged Chinese espionage in the United States.

Australia’s intelligence chief, Mike Burgess, acknowledged that “all nations spy – but the behaviour we’re talking about here goes far beyond traditional espionage.”