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MI5 chief: Cyber spying 'relatively straightforward' to beat

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Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, has claimed the internet has made the threat of espionage by foreign countries higher than ever before, but insisted it is "relatively straightforward" to block attempts to steal data.

"The overall likelihood of any particular entity being the subject of state espionage has probably never been higher, though paradoxically many of the vulnerabilities exploited both in cyber espionage and traditional espionage are relatively straightforward to plug if you are aware of them," he said.

The common sense call is relevant to ongoing work by the year-old Office of Cyber Security in the Cabinet Office to improve basic information security across government and in businesses.

MI5, officially known as the Security Service, is responsible for counter-espionage. Evans has previously written to the bosses of big British companies to warn them of the threat online, particularly from hackers with links to the Chinese intelligence services.

Cyber security is a key issue for the ongoing Strategic Defence and Security Review, which is due to report next month. Following the first national Cyber Security Strategy last year, efforts to protect UK networks and data are expected to receive a large budget boost, against a background of cuts to other areas of defence and security.

"Cyber security is a priority for the government both in respect of national security and economic harm. Ensuring that well informed advice is available to those who need it, including through the use of private sector partners is, and will remain, vital," Evans said.

He made his comments in a rare public speech last night in the City of London, which focused on threats from dissident Irish Republicans and Islamic extremists in Yemen and Somalia. The intelligence budget is under pressure as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. ®

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