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FBI and MI5 warn on threats from China - say UK disrupted cyberattack on 'critical' aerospace firms

Business Insider US
MI5 boss Ken McCallum, left, and FBI Director Chris Wray, right, spoke at Thames House on Wednesday
MI5 boss Ken McCallum, left, and FBI Director Chris Wray, right, spoke at Thames House on Wednesday
  • The UK's Security Service recently halted a cyberattack by China against key aerospace firms.
  • The heads of the FBI and the UK's MI5 raised alarms of the threat of Chinese espionage on Wednesday.
  • The unprecedented joint remarks described risks of "Chinese state action" to companies' technology.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

In May, the UK's MI5 disrupted a "sophisticated attack" by Chinese Community Party (CCP) agents against critical aerospace companies, MI5 head Ken McCallum revealed on Wednesday in an unprecedented joint address by the heads of the UK and US domestic security services.

McCallum and his FBI opposite number Chris Wray gave the address to business and academic leaders in London to sound the alarm on the threat of "Chinese state action" against businesses.

The UK has conducted intelligence sharing with 37 countries over the last 12 months, McCallum confirmed.

He also revealed in his remarks that over 50 students "linked" to the People's Liberation Army, the armed wing of the CCP, have left the country since the UK reformed its Academic Technology Approval Scheme. 

The security directors were careful to distinguish between Chinese state actors and positive collaboration with Chinese businesses.

They said that there was no need for businesspeople to make their business a "fortress," but warned that "if you are involved in cutting-edge tech, AI, advanced research or product development, the chances are your know-how is of material interest to the CCP [Chinese Communist Party]."

The remarks, made from Thames House in London's Westminster neighbourhood, were a rare public statement by the two highly secretive organisations. 

China's Foreign Ministry fired back in a daily press conference on Thursday. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said to reporters in Beijing: "We urge this US official to have the right perspective, see China's developments in an objective and reasonable manner and stop spreading lies and stop making irresponsible remarks," the AP reported

In the same remarks, Zhao called the United States "the biggest threat to world peace, stability and development."

In November last year, a US court convicted a senior Chinese intelligence officer of espionage of industrial secrets, including of military and aircraft technology.

McCallum seemed to preempt China's public response, saying in his speech: "If my remarks today elicit accusations of Sinophobia, from an authoritarian CCP, I trust you'll see the irony."


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