The UK’s MI5 has revealed in a Five Eyes meeting the discovery of cyberattacks from alleged Chinese spies on over 20,000 British citizens.
The alleged spies approached people through professional networking sites, including LinkedIn and requested sensitive information.
The announcement follows reports of Chinese actors targeting British officials to access government secrets.
Targeting Cutting-Edge Technology
Hosted by the US in California, the Five Eyes gathering focused on the technological military capabilities of alliance members, emerging threats, and interoperability for public safety and economic security.
At the event, MI5 Director General Ken McCallum highlighted cyber concerns at UK-based technology entities, researchers, and their online assets involving Chinese actors.
“We have seen a sustained campaign on a pretty epic scale,” McCallum said in a BBC interview.
“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.”
Before discovering the recent cyber espionage, MI5 documented over 20 instances last year when Chinese companies tried to obtain sensitive UK technologies through investments with unclear objectives.
These attempts involved two Chinese companies trying to secure undetected access to sensitive technology.
Another case is a Chinese firm suspected to have stolen research information from a top UK university.
Two separate incidents were also detected at two British institutions where attempts were made to bypass regulatory controls to access and alter research.
Stakes ‘Incredibly High’
With the “sharp rise” in cyber espionage, McCallum warned Five Eyes leaders of ”aggressive attempts by other states to steal competitive advantage.”
“It’s the same across all five of our countries,” Mccallum emphasized during the meeting.
“The stakes are now incredibly high on emerging technologies; states which lead the way in areas like artificial intelligence, quantum computing and synthetic biology will have the power to shape all our futures.”
“We all need to be aware, and respond, before it’s too late.”