Russia and Chinese spies must be treated as terrorists – MI5 in major public warning

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Foreign spies have tried to manipulate 10,000 regular people over the past five years. And MI5 Director General Ken McCallum will today warn “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 warn foreign spies, “given half a chance, hostile actors will short-circuit years of patient British research or investment”.

The UK’s most senior spy will say hostile states are not only targeting governments, public institutions or named individuals through espionage, cyber attacks, fake news and interference in political systems. 

In a warning to business leaders trading in “certain markets”, academics and researchers, Mr McCallum will say: “you will be of interest – more interest than you might think”.

Foreign spies have used networking sites such as LinkedIn to try and manipulate people.

The Director General of MI5 will warn today: “We must, over time, build the same public awareness and resilience to state threats that we have done over the years on terrorism.

“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.”

Mr McCallum will warn that the “consequences range from frustration and inconvenience, through loss of livelihood, potentially up to loss of life”.

He will detail why the British public is not immune to the tentacles of hostile activity and will call out the pervasive risks from espionage, disruptive cyber-attacks, misinformation and interference.

“‘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.”

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