- SKY NEWS - Oct 14, 2020 -
Deborah Haynes -
The new head of the Security Service, Ken McCallum, says state-backed hostile activity is on the rise.
Russia poses the biggest state-based threat to the UK but China is the growing long-term challenge, the new head of MI5 has said, describing Moscow as delivering "bursts of bad weather" while Beijing is "changing the climate".
Ken McCallum said MI5 is looking to increase its work to counter Chinese activities in a carefully prioritised way.
He also described how the coronavirus pandemic has created new jobs for MI5, with spies working to protect the UK's research into COVID-19 vaccines and treatments from attempts by hostile states like Russia to try to steal or sabotage the data.
Terrorist activity is adapting to the pandemic. Terrorists are having to look for different opportunities because there are fewer crowded places to target, while covert surveillance for MI5 has had to adapt because of the lack of people on the street to blend in with.
COVID-19 may also have given new ideas to enemies who pose a biological weapons threat.
"It would feel reasonable for us to imagine, that in a year where a global pandemic has turned the world upside down, some of our adversaries will have noticed that clearly, and maybe thinking through whether this has application in their area," Mr McCallum said.
"But I'm not saying to you that threat is now upon us, it is a possibility we have had to face a generation and we are still therefore facing it in a slightly varied form this year."