By Lily Zhou
While the threat from Russia has been “particularly obvious,” China will likely be “the single biggest factor” affecting the UK’s technology, the UK’s cybersecurity boss said on Nov. 1.
The comment comes as a government minister confirmed again that China has become a “long-term strategic threat” to the UK.
Launching the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC’s) sixth annual review on Nov. 1, CEO Lindy Cameron said the past year has seen the private sector taking state threats seriously after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Cameron said she’s “proud” of the NCSC’s roles in supporting Ukraine’s cyber defence and helping UK organisations fortify their defences.
She also warned that the UK can’t take its eyes off China.
“While the threat from Russia has been particularly obvious over the last year, it’s important not to forget that China’s technical development and evolution—the scale and pace of what they are able to do—is still likely to be the single biggest factor affecting our cybersecurity in the years to come,” Cameron said.
The NCSC is a part of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the UK’s national security agency.
Regarding state threats, the NCSC annual review named regimes in Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea as presenting “the most acute cyber threat to the UK and its interests.”
The regimes’ activities targeting local and national governments of other states include cyber-enabled espionage to gain classified information, using tools such as wiper malware to damage IT systems or institutions, cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property or personal data of citizens, and stealing and publishing sensitive or restricted information to embarrass states or institutions or to undermine social cohesion, according to the review.
The NCSC said UK organisations haven’t been significantly impacted by the cyber front of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but cautioned against complacency as Russia “continues to be a persistent and active threat to the UK and its interests.”
The cybersecurity watchdog also stated that the Chinese regime poses the biggest threat to the UK’s cybersecurity in the coming years.
It stated that China has put “significant resources” into emerging tech research and development, including artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and semiconductors, in order to achieve “technical supremacy.”
The report also cited FBI Director Christopher Wray as saying that China has “a bigger hacking program than that of every other major nation combined.”
Security Minister Tom Tugendhat announced on Nov. 1 that he’s leading a new task force to “drive forward work to defend the democratic integrity” of the UK.
Asked why China wasn’t labeled a threat in the government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy last year, Tugendhat confirmed that China has become a long-term strategic threat.