UK PM Sunak Promises Action Against Chinese Cyberattacks

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday that the UK will take whatever steps were necessary to protect itself from a cyberattack by China, as Beijing-linked hackers were expected to be accused of previous security breaches.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden is scheduled to deliver a statement about the Electoral Commission and Parliament hackings at 1530 GMT, with punishments enforced on those allegedly responsible.

Sunak was tough on China when he ran for leader of the ruling Conservative party in 2022, but he has subsequently modified his attitude while in office.

He stated Monday that the government had “significantly invested” in capacities and resources to secure the country, describing China as “an economic threat to our security and an epoch-defining challenge.”

“We will always do what is required to keep our country safe,” he told the BBC.

The Electoral Commission breach in August 2021 exposed the personal information of around 40 million UK voters.

Four MPs who have regularly campaigned for greater action against China were also summoned for a security briefing following the strikes.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Lin Jian, denied the charges on Monday, saying Beijing had been “resolute” in suppressing and harshly punishing “all kinds of malicious cyberactivities”.

“The issue of tracing cyberattacks is highly complex and sensitive,” he said.

“When investigating and determining the nature of cyberincidents, there should be ample objective evidence, instead of smearing other countries without factual basis, let alone politicising cybersecurity issues.”

For some years, the UK has been increasingly at odds with Beijing over civil and human rights crackdowns in China and Hong Kong, a former British colony.

The UK has further strained ties by denying Chinese corporations access to important British infrastructure projects, such as nuclear and information technology.

Last year, a UK parliamentary researcher was imprisoned under the Official Secrets Act on allegations of spying for China.

In 2022, the UK domestic intelligence service MI5 stated that a female Chinese government agent had been “engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, engaging with members here at parliament”.

In July of this year, the parliament’s intelligence and security committee reported that China was targeting the UK “prolifically and aggressively” and that the government lacked the “resources, expertise, or knowledge” to cope with it.

China has repeatedly denied allegations of spying and other misconduct.

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