Posted on December 20, 2018
There has been a lot of coverage of Chinese cyber attacks but the insider threat is often more dangerous than remote hacking, US officials say. Chinese intelligence is “prolific” at targeting people over social media sites like Linkedin, Evanina claims. “If you look at it from a perspective of the intelligence service it’s a low-risk, high-yield ability to send out 30,000 or 40,000 emails and get 20, 30, 40 people respond and say, ‘I have that technology. I can come over to the presentation.’ It’s a very, very successful use for them.”
A year ago the German security service warned that 10,000 Germans had been contacted by fake profiles disguised as head-hunters, consultants, think-tankers or scholars who were actually Chinese intelligence agents. Chinese spies are believed to be targeting UK secrets – but the British government has been far less willing to speak out about it. Those working in national security in the UK confirm privately that they see the same range of activity as in the US. But while there have been a string of indictments in America and statements from senior figures in the Trump administration, the UK government so far has been far less vocal. US officials privately say they want the UK to take a tougher line but so far British officials have been careful. There are indications that the UK might be prepared to become more vocal on some forms of Chinese activity as Washington presses its allies for joint action. The US is currently reported to be planning a new wave of indictments and possibly sanctions against China over its espionage.
“There has been a long history of intellectual property theft, for example from UK universities and major engineering companies, by hackers linked to the Chinese state,” says Robert Hannigan, who ran GCHQ, Britain’s communications intelligence agency, from 2014-17. “The UK’s response has been low key – successive governments have wanted to avoid confrontation with China and in any case the UK does not have the global law enforcement reach which underpins US indictments against China and other countries on cyber.” In the UK, there have been fewer indictments or court cases although there is one case currently under police investigation.