Saturday, 5 February 2011

Hague: Chinese cyber-spies penetrate Foreign Office computers

The Guardian newspaper last night detailed the announcement to a Munich security conference by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague that an attack on British interests was recently repelled from "a hostile state intelligence agency":
China has penetrated the Foreign Office's internal communications in the most audacious example yet of the growing threat posed by state-sponsored cyber-attacks, it emerged tonight.

William Hague told a security conference in Munich that the FO repelled the attack last month from "a hostile state intelligence agency". Although the foreign secretary did not name the country behind the attacks, intelligence sources familiar with the incidents made it clear he was referring to China. The sources did not want to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the issue.

In his speech Hague was reflecting growing anger and concern within the government about the increasing threat posed by cyber-espionage – states, as well as individuals, using cyberspace to steal defence, diplomatic and commercial secrets.

"It is a new development. The UK is prepared to admit the attacks were state-backed," said Alexander Neill, head of the Asia programme at the Royal United Services Institute thinktank.

The foreign secretary said the FO attack came in the form of an email sent to three of his staff "which claimed to be about a forthcoming visit to the region and looked quite innocent". In fact it was from a hostile state intelligence agency and contained computer code embedded in the attached document that would have attacked their machine. Luckily, our systems identified it and stopped it from ever reaching my staff," Hague said.
 As also outlined by Hague, this attack is but the latest of three recent attempts to penetrate UK security in cyberspace... The opinion of the Defence Chiefs regarding these developments is clear:
General Sir David Richards, chief of the defence staff, last month said the UK needed its own Cyber Command, similar to that set by by the US defence department. He said that the advance of cyber technology would lead to a "cultural change" in warfare which the UK must be prepared for."We must learn to defend, delay, attack and manoeuvre in cyberspace, just as we might on the land, sea or air and all together at the same time".

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