The heads of the FBI and of Great Britain’s MI5 have a warning for American and British businesses regarding
the threats posed by Chinese espionage, especially spying aimed at stealing Western technology companies’ intellectual property.
In a rare joint appearance on Wednesday at the headquarters of MI5, Christopher Wray, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Ken McCallum, Director-General of MI5, urged executives not to underestimate the scale and sophistication of Beijing’s campaign.
“The Chinese government is set on stealing your technology—whatever it is that makes your industry tick—and using it to undercut your business and dominate your market,” Mr Wray told the audience of business people. “They’re set on using every tool at their disposal to do it.”
Too much of that information aggregates to national security levels, and the lackadaisical protection of it threatens our security indirectly via the degradation of our two nations’ economic capabilities relative to the People’s Republic of China and directly through exposing our defense information to theft. That means business laxness—outright laziness in too many cases—cannot be excused with the companies involved being left simply to take their lumps.
Wray emphasized the matter as it concerns the US.
We want to send the clearest signal we can on a massive shared challenge—China…if we are to protect our economies, our institutions, and our democratic values.
To do that, business executives—particularly CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs, and their deputies—need to do their part and start taking seriously their own obligations to protect company secrets and other proprietary information, along with information of a national security kind.
It may be, then, that business executives need to start being held personally liable, civilly and criminally, for security breaches that allow hackers to steal their companies’ information. The businesses that employ them may need, as legal persons, to be held similarly liable for such breaches.