In a rare joint statement, the intelligence chiefs of the Five Eyes alliance — the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — accused China on Tuesday of “unprecedented” intellectual property theft and spying using advanced technologies like artificial intelligence.

According to an Oct. 18 Reuters report, after meetings with Silicon Valley companies, FBI Director Christopher Wray said China was engaged in the “most sustained, scaled and sophisticated theft of intellectual property and expertise in human history.”

The officials warned that China is aggressively using cyber intrusions, spying, corporate investments and more to steal secrets from businesses and research institutions across multiple sectors — including quantum technology, robotics, biotechnology and artificial intelligence.

“Every strand of that web had become more brazen, and more dangerous,” Wray said. He accused China of having a bigger hacking program than all other major nations combined — which, together with traditional espionage and theft of trade secrets, gave it enormous power.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s director-general, Mike Burgess, revealed his agency had recently busted a Chinese plot that involved planting an academic at a prestigious Australian research institution to steal secrets. “This sort of thing is happening every day in Australia, as it is in the countries here,” he said.

Burgess said while China’s intention to innovate for its own interests was “fine,” its methods went far beyond traditional espionage. He warned China was stealing more corporate and personal data than any other nation “by orders of magnitude.”

The officials called out China’s use of artificial intelligence to amplify its capabilities and make its already mammoth hacking programs even more effective. “If you think about what AI can do to help leverage that data to take what’s already the largest hacking program in the world by a country mile, and make it that much more effective — that’s what we’re worried about,” Wray said.

In response, Chinese government spokesperson Liu Pengyu denied the allegations and said China was committed to intellectual property protection.

Radek Zielinski

Radek Zielinski is an experienced technology and financial journalist with a passion for cybersecurity and futurology.