published : 2023-10-21

'Insidious' Chinese Espionage Reaches 'Epic Scale,' British Security Chief, FBI Warn

MI-5 Chief Ken McCallum Cites Over 20,000 Brits Approached by Chinese Agents

MI-5 Director Ken McCallum giving a speech at the Five Eyes Alliance conference in California, taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

The scale of Chinese espionage in the private sector has reached an 'epic scale,' according to MI-5 Director Ken McCallum and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

McCallum revealed that Chinese agents had approached more than 20,000 individuals in the UK, seeking sensitive information from workers in the tech sector.

This alarming revelation was made during the Five Eyes Alliance conference in California, where intelligence agency chiefs from the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada publicly appeared together.

McCallum highlighted that the covert activities of China, Russia, and Iran were not limited to government or military secrets, but also targeted promising startups, academic research, and individuals who might not consider themselves relevant to national security.

FBI Director Christopher Wray speaking at a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., taken with a Nikon D850

Wray asserted that China has made economic espionage and stealing others' work a key part of its national strategy, undermining innovators in all five countries.

The FBI director disclosed that there are over 2,000 ongoing FBI investigations linked to China, with new related investigations being opened every 12 hours.

The extent of Chinese efforts in the tech sector is evident as McCallum cited numerous approaches through platforms like LinkedIn, as well as 20 instances of Chinese companies attempting to acquire sensitive technology developments from UK organizations through investments and other obfuscated means.

The implications are profound, as these technologies play a pivotal role in shaping the future and authoritarian states like China are keen on leveraging them to their advantage.

Chinese President Xi Jinping addressing the Global Trade in Services Summit of the 2023 China International Fair for Trade in Services via video in Beijing, taken with a Sony Alpha a7R IV

Furthermore, McCallum disclosed an acquisition by a Chinese company that had implications for British military and major Western commercial supply chains, emphasizing the gravity of the situation.

The director of MI-5 acknowledged the growing threat posed by state actors and anticipated that law enforcement agencies would increasingly focus on countering state threats similar to counter-terrorism efforts.

Overall, the scale, insidious tactics, and strategic nature of Chinese espionage underscore the urgent need for heightened vigilance and effective countermeasures.