MI6 boss: My fears over China building our 5G mobile network
THE head of MI6 has raised concerns about Chinese companies building high-speed mobile internet networks in the UK.
In a rare public appearance, Alex Younger said the country will have to decide how ‘comfortable’ it would be with the Chinese owning its future 5G infrastructure.
China is currently a world leader in developing the next-generation mobile internet technology that promises to deliver much faster download speeds and could revolutionise connectivity.
Mr Younger – who is known by the codename ‘C’ – told students at St Andrews University, his alma mater: ‘We’ve got some decisions to take. This is about how 5G will, by and large, be based on Chinese technology.
‘We need to decide the extent to which we are going to be comfortable with Chinese ownership of these technologies and these platforms in an environment where some of our allies have taken quite a definite position.
‘We need to have a conversation – it is not wholly straightforward.’
Australia and New Zealand have both recently banned the Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei from providing 5G equipment on national security grounds.
The Australian government said there were concerns about the country’s internet networks being provided by companies ‘likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government’. The technology, which will supersede 4G, could speed up the creation of ‘smart cities’ with linked networks of everything from traffic signals to driverless cars.
In his second ever public speech since becoming head of MI6 in 2014, Mr Younger said the UK must adjust to a new political reality as ‘power, money and politics are going East’.
He also raised the prospect of a technological arms race, saying the evolving threat from nation states comes largely from their ‘increasingly innovative exploitation of modern technology’.
He added: ‘Simply put, we’ve got to innovate faster than they can. Indeed, future generations would not forgive us if it were otherwise.
‘Cyber is now our fastest-growing directorate. We are shifting our focus to the nexus between humans and technology.
‘But my organisation will need to adapt even faster if it is to thrive in the future and that will require people with new perspectives, capable of harnessing their creativity in ways that we can’t yet even imagine.’
However, Mr Younger stressed that intelligence gathered by agents in the field will become even more important in the digital age.
He also said that after Brexit Britain will continue to work with allies because our security ties in Europe are ‘indispensable’.
Close work with European intelligence agencies had prevented ‘multiple’ planned attacks by Islamic State that would have resulted in ‘significant loss of life’, he added.
In his wide-ranging speech, he also said he was ‘perplexed’ by the jailing of British academic Matthew Hedges for spying in the United Arab Emirates.
Mr Hedges was freed last week but officials in the Gulf state, a British ally, persisted in calling him an MI6 spy – a claim denied by family and colleagues.
Mr Younger said: ‘I genuinely don’t understand how our Emirati partners came to the conclusions they came to. They are important partners of ours, so there are some frank conversations ahead of us.’
He also said ‘frank conversations’ were needed after the ‘shocking’ murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Arab state’s consulate in Istanbul.
The MI6 boss also used his speech to single out Russia over the ‘flagrant hostile act’ of the Salisbury nerve agent attack against former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March.
He said MI6 would no longer take the state at its word, adding: ‘I urge Russia or any other state intent on subverting our way of life not to underestimate our determination and our capabilities.’
‘Power and money are going East’