China accused of ‘malicious cyberattacks’ on UK targets

Foreign secretary says he is ‘deeply concerned’ by arrest of two Chinese nationals

Credit: Pxfuel

Dominic Raab said he is “deeply concerned” by news two Chinese man have been arrested over cyberattacks on institutions in 11 countries including the UK.

The foreign secretary warned state-backed hackers attempting to steal trade secrets and sensitive intellectual property that they will be held to account.

Speaking alongside the German minister of foreign affairs Heiko Maas at Chevening House in Kent, Raab also said Britain will “call Russia out” on cybersecurity breaches amid ongoing tensions with Moscow.

It follows the US Department of Justice’s announcement last week that Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi were being charged with hacking into hundreds of computer systems of companies, governments and organisations across the world.

They are accused of stealing “hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of trade secrets, intellectual property and other valuable business information” with the assistance of the Chinese government’s ministry of state security.

Targets include an unnamed British company, referred to as an “artificial intelligence and cancer research firm”, which is believed to have had its network compromised in April this year.

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The Cabinet minister said: “I am deeply concerned by the evidence announced yesterday that China is engaged in malicious cyberattacks against commercial, medical and academic institutions, including those working to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Our message to governments prepared to enable these activities is clear: the UK will continue to counter those conducting such cyberattacks, and work with our allies to hold perpetrators to account and deter further malicious activity around the world.”

And speaking alongside Maas met at his official residence as foreign secretary in Kent he said: “We have been working together to make sure that China lives up to its obligations and its responsibilities, the most obvious example has been in relation to Hong Kong.

“We’re taking very similar measures in relation to Hong Kong, we’ve been working with our French partners in that E3 format [of EU countries] which I think shows you that, notwithstanding our departure from the EU, we’ve committed and we’re demonstrating through our deeds, not just our words, the importance of co-operating with our European partners.”

Raab added: “We set out very clearly our approach in relation to Hong Kong, and we want to engage with China, we want a positive relationship with China but certainly in relation to Hong Kong.”

And on Russia, addressing the newly released Intelligence and Security Committee report on alleged interference in UK democracy, Raab said: “The truth is I think everyone can see that from the ISC and the outcomes – we’ve responded to all of those points and recommendations and conclusions in full.”

He added: “There’s clearly an issue with Russian cyberattacks, and I think we’ve said recently in particular, in relation to the attempt which we have now attributed publicly to the Russian intelligence agencies that we will call Russia out, and I’m talking about the one in relation to vaccine in this country but also in America and Canada.

“We will call out Russia, we will hold Russia to account whenever that happens.”

Sam Trendall

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