US and Germany warn of Chinese espionage threat

Various US security agencies have warned of foreign threats to its space sector, while the German government has increased pressure on its telcos to ditch Huawei.

Perhaps conscious of the fact that it hardly ever issues a press release, the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center recently saw fit to publish a PDF pamphlet warning the country’s space sector to be extra vigilant against foreign baddies. In this case they’re characterised as Foreign Intelligence Entities (FIEs), which can be distinguished from their domestic counterparts by their unscrupulous, malevolent sneakiness. As ever, no specific countries were named, but the tweet below (linking to a paywalled article) offers a fairly significant clue.

‘FIEs use cyberattacks, strategic investment (including joint ventures and acquisitions), the targeting of key supply chain nodes, and other techniques to gain access to the US space industry,’ warns the pamphlet. Signs of such mischief include ‘probing questions’, ‘offers of employment’ and assorted other suspicious overtures from ‘foreign entities’. US companies are encouraged to report any such solicitations to the FBI.

This clarion call was echoed by the German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser in an interview with Handelsblatt (also partially paywalled). In the auto-translated version of the article, Faeser stressed the importance of international collaboration. “Especially when China is spying on the economy, very close networking between the security authorities is essential,” she insisted.

Elsewhere in the interview Faeser lamented the continued use of Huawei kit by German network providers, of which DT is the most conspicuous offender. “But of course the risks have been known for a long time,” she said. “Our security authorities have repeatedly warned against one-sided dependencies. I do think that the providers had enough time to adapt to this… I don’t let the cost argument fool me either.”

The ‘cost argument’ consists of billions of euros, but Faeser is not about to let such trivia distract her. The US government has made it clear that it’s prepared to tolerate any amount of collateral damage to its own companies in the name of sabotaging the Chinese tech sector and Germany seems to have got the memo. It still remains to be seen, however, whether the Germany government is prepared to take the significant political risk associated with a hard ban on Huawei kit.


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