UK MI5 chief Ken McCallum warns public of cyber-threat from hostile states such as China & Russia

Head of Britain's MI5, Ken McCallum, is urging the public to be as vigilant about threats from "hostile states" as from terrorism, the BBC reports.

These include disruptive cyber-attacks, misinformation, espionage and interference in politics - and are usually linked to Russia and China.

McCallum is warning that "less visible threats... have the potential to affect us all," affecting UK jobs and public services and could even lead to a loss of life.

The head of the Security Service wants to challenge the idea that activity by so-called "hostile states", usually taken to mean primarily Russia and China, only affects governments or certain institutions.

Instead, he is to argue in an annual threat update, that the British public are not immune to the "tentacles" of covert action by other states.

In the speech at MI5's Thames House headquarters, Mr McCallum will warn the "consequences range from frustration and inconvenience, through loss of livelihood, potentially up to loss of life".

Terrorism has dominated MI5's agenda for the last two decades. That danger has not gone away but MI5 is now also dealing with a broader range of threats as well.

These include cyber attacks. China is often accused of seeking to steal information for commercial gain but Russia and China have both been accused in the last year by Western governments of targeting vaccine research - allegations they have denied.

The warning comes amid growing fears that cyber-attacks by states, or by criminal groups sheltered by states such as Russia, could take down critical infrastructure like water or power or healthcare leading to a loss of life.

In 2017, a cyber-attack linked to North Korea took down parts of the NHS, affecting appointments, and a recent attack linked to criminals in Russia took down a pipeline supplying half the fuel to America's East Coast.

States are also running misinformation campaigns. As well as claims it may have tried to increase scepticism about the Oxford vaccine, Russia was directly accused by the government of trying to influence the 2019 general electionand was linked to interference in the US 2016 election.

The government faced criticism for delays in releasing the so-called Russia Report from the Intelligence and Security Committee which looked at this.

When it was released last summer, it said there had been a failure to investigate interference from Moscow in the Brexit referendum. Moscow has dismissed the accusations.

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