London: China is laying “honey traps” for UK business executives by bugging and burgling them in order to blackmail them into providing sensitive commercial secrets, British intelligence service MI5 has alleged.
The Times quoted a leaked MI5 document, as saying that China’s undercover intelligence officers have approached UK businessmen at trade fairs and exhibitions with the offer of “gifts” and “lavish hospitality”.
The gifts — cameras and memory sticks — have been found to contain electronic Trojan bugs which provide the Chinese with remote access to users’ computers.
The 14-page report describes how China has attacked UK defence, energy, communications and manufacturing companies in a concerted hacking campaign, apart from targeting the computer networks and e-mail accounts of public relations companies and international law firms.
“Any UK company might be at risk if it holds information which would benefit the Chinese,” the report says.
China has occasionally attempted sexual entrapment to target senior British political figures.
“An undercover intelligence officer may try to develop a friendship or business relationship, often using lavish hospitality and flattery. Chinese intelligence services have also been known to exploit vulnerabilities such as sexual relationships and illegal activities to pressurise individuals to co-operate with them,” the document warns.
“Hotel rooms in major Chinese cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, which are frequented by foreigners, are likely to be bugged ... hotel rooms have been searched while the occupants are out of the room,” it adds.
The explicit nature of the MI5 warning is likely to strain diplomatic ties between London and Beijing.
China has repeatedly denied spying on Britain and the West.