US intelligence agencies warn companies in critical sectors about China – Community News
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US intelligence agencies warn companies in critical sectors about China

US intelligence agencies have launched a campaign to warn US companies of the risks of interacting with China in critical industries, in an effort to make it more difficult for Beijing to obtain technology and data.

The National Counterintelligence and Security Center wants to make people aware of the ties that Chinese companies have with government, military and intelligence services. The effort focuses on five sectors: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, semiconductors and autonomous systems.

Michael Orlando, acting director of the NCSC, a branch of the US intelligence community that focuses on threats from China, said Beijing used “a range of legal, illegal and quasi-legal” methods to obtain intellectual property and data about US citizens that it would use to try to dominate critical industries.

As part of the push, Orlando and his team are contacting US companies about the risks, saying many companies were unaware of the direct and hidden links between Chinese companies and universities and state security, or that Beijing was using a “whole government approach” to obtain technology.

For example, China uses a “civil-military merger” program to force companies to share technology with the military and intelligence services. Beijing has also introduced laws that make it easier to secure access to private data.

“People are not digesting this,” said Orlando, emphasizing that the US government was not telling companies not to do business with China. “If you’re going to do business and collaborate, be smart about it.”

US officials have increasingly expressed concern about China as it closes the gap with the US in industries such as AI, and shows signs of progress in areas such as hypersonic weapons. Orlando said quantum computing was an example of where the US needed to make sure US companies weren’t helping Chinese groups turn a profit that would help them break the security encryption codes used by US intelligence agencies.

The veteran counterintelligence officer, who previously worked with the FBI and CIA, declined to name the companies he met, but said he would soon hold talks with US financial institutions.

Edward You, National Counterintelligence Officer for Emerging and Disruptive Technologies, said biotechnology was an important area because of China’s pressure to obtain health data from US citizens.

He pointed to companies such as BGI, a Shenzhen-based genetic research group, and others that offer low-cost services to US companies and hospitals. You added that there was a danger that China would obtain complete data sets on US citizens. “You Can’t Change” [your DNA] like a PIN,” he said.

“They are on their way to developing the world’s largest data set,” he added.

Orlando said another goal of the campaign was to make sure American companies weren’t helping to provide China with the technology that would allow their companies to dominate. “We cannot afford to lose supremacy in these areas [so] this justifies this level of reach,” he said.

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