Britain due to set out Chinese cyber security threat

FILE PHOTO: British Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden speaks during an interview with Reuters, in Seoul, South Korea, March 19, 2024. REUTERS/Kim Daewoung/File Photo

By Andrew MacAskill

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain will give details of the cyber security threat it says is posed by China on Monday, and may blame Beijing for a hack on its electoral watchdog, as worries about interference grow before an election expected later this year.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden is due to make a statement on the issue to parliament on Monday, a government official said, declining to confirm whether he will also announce reprisals including sanctions.

There has been growing anxiety about China’s alleged espionage activity in Britain, particularly after it emerged last year that a parliamentary researcher was arrested on suspicion of spying for China.

A group of British lawmakers who are well known critics of China have been called to a briefing by parliament’s director of security on Monday, a source told Reuters.

Ahead of Dowden’s statement in parliament, British media also reported that the government is expected to blame Beijing for a hack on the country’s Electoral Commission. The attack dates back to 2021 and was disclosed last year and allowed hostile actors to access the details of millions of voters.

The government said last year that Chinese spies are targeting British officials in sensitive positions in politics, defence and business as part of an increasingly sophisticated spying operation to gain access to secrets.

The Chinese embassy in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last year, the embassy accused the British government of “making groundless accusations” when the head of MI5 accused China of carrying out an espionage campaign on an “epic scale”.

Britain’s domestic intelligence service MI5 has said it is now running seven times as many investigations into Chinese activity as it did in 2018 and plans more.

In 2022, MI5 issued a rare security alert, warning members of parliament that a suspected Chinese spy was “involved in political interference activities” in Britain.


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