• Eyal Pinko

To combat Chinese espionage, FBI Director has asked US firms to engage more closely with his agency

Last week, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation director urged US businesses to strengthen relations with the bureau to oppose Beijing's "multi-pronged" drive to acquire enough intellectual property to "become the world's only superpower."

The FBI's director, Christopher Wray, gave a virtual talk to the Economic Club of New York, encouraging members to form ties with the agency's local offices before intrusions like the Microsoft Exchange email server compromise reported earlier this year.

"Too often, when we investigate a cyberthreat, we discover that the same adversary is also targeting sensitive and private information with the help of an innocent company insider," Wray stated.

"Or they may be going after it through a foreign-controlled corporation seeking to obtain access to the information through a corporate deal like a joint venture or something," Wray added.

"Most of the time, that threat comes from the Chinese government or companies under its control, and to say they're well resourced is an understatement," Wray continued. "No single organization is equipped to defend against a multi-venue danger, which is why we need to collaborate."

Wray's appeal to action was the latest in a long line of grim warnings about Chinese espionage since taking over as FBI director in 2017. Since he told a Senate Homeland Security Committee in 2018 that China poses a more significant security threat to the US than Russia, they've become more urgent.

Those remarks came only hours after the US Justice Department reported the arrest of a top Beijing intelligence official on suspicion of attempting to steal trade secrets from GE Aviation and other US aerospace firms.

Following the arrest, the department announced its "China Initiative," which aimed to improve coordination across the US government to thwart Chinese espionage.

Following the acquittal of a University of Tennessee professor, Hu Anming, these attempts sparked an uproar from the Chinese community and civil rights advocates concerned that academics and other Chinese heritage were being unfairly targeted.

In his address, Wray reiterated his concerns about academics and researchers with ties to China.

"They're deploying so-called unconventional collectors – and what I mean by that is businessmen, different kinds of researchers and graduate students, scientists, purportedly private companies," he said.

Many of these persons and organizations, according to Wray, are "essentially under the boot of the Chinese Communist Party, all directed toward a single goal of stealing American knowledge to place the Chinese government in a position to become the world's only superpower."

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