Britons should be alert to spying from China and Russia as they are with terrorism, warns MI5 chief | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack

Britons should be on their guard about spying and hostile state attacks from the likes of China and Russia in the same way they are about terrorism, MI5’s top boss will warn today.

In a major speech at the Thames House headquarters in London, MI5’s Director General, Ken McCallum will warn that ordinary members of the public are not immune to the tentacles of hostile states.

He will also emphasis that the ‘less visible threats that have the potential to affect us all’.

To date, there have been more than 10,000 ‘disguised approaches from foreign spies to regular people in the UK, seeking to manipulate them’, according to MI5.

The approaches have been made through social media sites such as LinkedIn to steal information, according to the UK’s Security Service.

And Mr McCallum say he believes ‘regular people’ should care more about cyber attacks, spying on our world-leading research and technology, misinformation and interference.

In a major speech at the Thames House spy headquarters in London, MI5’s Director General, Ken McCallum (pictured) will warn that ordinary members of the public are not immune to the tentacles of hostile states like Russia and China

Mr McCallum will today warn Britons to be on their guard about hostile state attacks from the likes of China (pictured left: President Xi Jinping) and Russia (pictured right: President Vladamir Putin), warning they should treat the threat level in the same way they do with terrorism.

The security service aiming to keep the UK safe: What is MI5? 

MI5 – which stands for the much less used ‘Military Intelligence Section 5’ – is Britain’s Security Service.

Based in Thames House, London, the service is involved in domestic counter-intelligence and security – unlike MI6 which is the foreign intelligence agency.

MI5 was set up as counter-intelligence service 1909, first focusing on the threat from Germany and then, after World War Two, focusing on the Cold War threat posed by the Soviet Union’s agents.

The service currently employs around 4,400 workers all of whom are bound to secrecy under the Official Secrets Act.

MI5 also has a policy not to reveal the name of anyone who has worked for the service while they are still alive. 

The service’s Director General is however an exception to that rule and is made public.

The current chief of MI5 is Ken McCallum – a life-long spy who has worked for the agency for the last 20 years.  

The Director General of MI5 used to known as the codename ‘K’, but has not been since the 1940s. 

He will warn that the attacks can be fatal, with the ‘consequences ranging from frustration and inconvenience, through loss of livelihood, potentially up to loss of life.’

Mr McCallum, a career spy, will challenge the assumption that the impact of hostile activity is felt only by government or institutions, urging the public to recognise that they too are at risk from the constant undercurrent of activity.

‘We must, over time, build the same public awareness and resilience to state threats that we have done over the years on terrorism,’ he will say In an annual threat update speech.

He will also say: ‘UK victims of state espionage range way wider than just government. We see the UK’s brilliant universities and researchers having their discoveries stolen or copied; we see businesses hollowed out by the loss of advantage they’ve worked painstakingly to build.

‘Given half a chance, hostile actors will short-circuit years of patient British research or investment.

‘This is happening at scale. And it affects us all. UK jobs, UK public services, UK futures.’ 

He adds: ‘To speak directly: if you are working in a high-tech business; or engaged in cutting-edge scientific research; or exporting into certain markets, you will be of interest – more interest than you might think – to foreign spies. 

‘You don’t have to be scared; but be switched on.’ In the threat assessment, the second since he became Director General in April, Mr McCallum will also address the current terrorism threat.

Mr McCallum is expected to reference the challenge to MI5 posed by the withdrawal of UK forces from Afghanistan and the scale of the threat from extreme right-wing terrorism.

He will also emphasise the risk to public safety posed by Facebook’s plan for end-to-end encryption, which police chiefs say will compromise their ability to catch child sex offenders.  

Mr McCallum, head of MI5 (pictured: The MI5 building) will challenge the assumption that the impact of hostile activity is felt only by government or institutions, urging the public to recognise that they too are at risk from the constant undercurrent of activity

Mr McCallum’s comments come after at least 1,000 were hit in a global cyber-attack believed to have been carried out by Russian hackers.

It led US President Joe Biden to warn that his country will retaliate if it finds out Russia was behind the virus, that hit firms in the run-up to July 4 weekend.

The hackers first targeted Florida-based IT company Kaseya before spreading to other firms that use the company’s software.

The breach was discovered Friday afternoon as many businesses had already closed or waved goodbye to employees for the long Independence Day weekend.

Kaseya said it notified the FBI and had so far found less than 40 customers impacted by the breach.

Security firm Huntress said earlier this month that it believed the Russia-linked REvil ransomware cyber gang was to blame. 

Meanwhile, In May, a probe was launched into Chinese ‘spies’ working in British universities.

Specialists at the Foreign Office, Special Branch and HMRC are reported to have drawn up a list of academics suspected of passing sensitive information to Beijing, including pioneering British technology that could be used to aid the repression of minorities and dissidents.

The president told reporters Saturday that it is not yet clear who is behind the latest cybersecurity breach to strike American businesses

Investigators are understood to have ‘established a correlation’ between universities which earn significant income from students from China and the activities of staff which have prompted suspicion.

Universities under scrutiny include Manchester and Imperial College, which earn 26 per cent of their income from students from China; Liverpool and Sheffield (28 per cent); and Oxford and Cambridge (10 per cent).

There is no suggestion any of the institutions are aware of, or complicit in, any wrongdoing.

Last year it was revealed that a third of non-EU university students in the UK come from China, with 120,000 paying a total of £2.1 billion in fees.

The investigation was launched amid fears academics were engaged in a ‘gold rush’ to strike deals with the Communist state over scientific breakthroughs.

In February, The Mail on Sunday revealed MI6 officers, seconded to the Foreign Office, were leading an investigation into more than a dozen universities for potential breach of export controls.

It also emerged that almost 200 British academics were being investigated on suspicion of unwittingly helping the Chinese government build weapons of mass destruction.

Anyone found in breach of the 2008 Export Control Order faces a maximum of ten years in prison. 

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