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The intelligence chiefs of the Five Eyes nations gathered at Stanford University on Tuesday for their first-ever combined public meeting to raise concerns about the security threat that China poses.
The conversation was centered on China’s employment of cutting-edge espionage techniques and developing technology to further its own strategic objectives. The Five Eyes is an intelligence cooperation made up of the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
“The biggest danger to innovation is the Chinese Communist Party. As a key part of its national strategy, China has made economic espionage and stealing the ideas and works of others a priority. Innovation in all five countries is being harmed by that espionage”, asserts US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray.
China’s Strategic IP and Technology Threats
Many Western nations have accused China in recent years of plundering intellectual property, meddling in internal affairs through state-owned and other corporations, and abusing new technologies. Germany is one of the nations that has unveiled concrete plans to counter a growing China.
According to ASIO director-general Mike Burgess, the Chinese government is engaged in the most sustained, large-scale, and sophisticated theft of intellectual property and transfer of expertise through methods that are exploiting their democratic and collaborative DNA.
The five leaders discussed the numerous risks posed by nations like China and Russia utilizing emerging technology, ranging from dual-use military applications to virtual kidnappings where AI can imitate children’s voices.
While Burgess emphasized that every country spies, China’s actions go “well beyond conventional espionage,” Wray noted that the Chinese threat involves both the appropriation of AI and its misuse.
Burgess used the example of a scholar who was expelled from Australia last month “before the harm could be done” to demonstrate China’s intrusive measures.
The effort to infiltrate a major Australian research institution was discovered and foiled by ASIO last month. According to him, the conspiracy featured a visiting professor, an academic who was also sought out by Chinese intelligence.
Regaining the Competitive Edge
Though they haven’t completely utilized these technologies themselves, the Five Eyes nations are always trying to keep AI and other technology out of the hands of their enemies. Burgess pointed out that these agencies’ need to take into consideration “license to function and rule of law when it comes to exploitation of technology”. During the conversation, improving cooperation with the business sector was suggested as a way to deal with this issue.
David Vigneault, the director of CSIS, acknowledged that his organization faced “cultural reticence.”
“The question is, you know, how can we use these technologies in our environment legitimately, safely, with the oversight we have, and all that. However, we must overcome our organization’s ingrained cultural reluctance,” he stated.
He further added that dismantling such silos was crucial for their work in a setting where they have top secret clearances.
In a similar vein, director-general Andrew Hampton of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service clarified that security organizations must be more “open and receptive” in their interactions with the private sector.
Leaders from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), British Security Service (MI5), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and New Zealand Security Intelligence Service engaged in a roughly hour-long conversation during which they covered a wide range of issues.
The discussion, which was moderated by former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, aimed to increase awareness of the need for greater technology protection among business leaders.
In the end, the alliance unveiled the “Five Principles of Secure Innovation,” which are: Know Your Risks, Protect Your Environment, Protect Your Products, Protect Your Partnerships, and Protect Your Growth.