Five Eyes Urges Tech Startups to Protect Against IP Theft

MI5 Warns of 'Share Rise' in Cyberespionage
Five Eyes Urges Tech Startups to Protect Against IP Theft
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Nation-state hacks against Western startups are surging in a bid by competitor nations to glean intellectual property, warn cyber and intelligence agencies from the Five Eyes alliance.

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In a joint statement issued by agencies from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, authorities said attackers target organizations developing artificial intelligence, quantum science and synthetic biology.

The stolen data is likely used to fast-track technological and military capabilities within adversary nations, alliance members said.

"Across all five of our countries, we are seeing a sharp rise in aggressive attempts by other states to steal competitive advantage," said Ken McCallum, director general of U.K. security service MI5.

No official Five Eyes statement blamed nation-state actors for the uptick in hacking. But during a Stanford University event on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray named China as a top threat for intellectual property theft.

"The challenge that China presents is scale in terms of cyber intrusions through their nationalized hacking program, which they combine with human intelligence operations through traditional spies who steal information from businesses and academics," Wray said.

Other concerns about Chinese hacking include theft of AI intellectual property and potential use of AI to amplify cyberattacks, find vulnerabilities and process large swathes of stolen trade secrets, he said.

A recent report from the U.K. Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee said that illicit acquisition of intellectual property "appears to be a major contributor to China's rapid progress" in technological development.

In order to protect startups and businesses from potential espionage campaigns, the U.K.'s National Protective Security Authority on Tuesday released guidance on enhancing organizational defense. The measures proposed by the agency include proactively implementing cyber hygiene practices such as supply chain risk mitigation, patching and updating, as well as establishing an incident management plan.

About the Author

Akshaya Asokan

Akshaya Asokan

Senior Correspondent, ISMG

Asokan is a U.K.-based senior correspondent for Information Security Media Group's global news desk. She previously worked with IDG and other publications, reporting on developments in technology, minority rights and education.

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