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China hacking threat to UK health security ‘because ministers failing to act’ | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker


A failure to curb alleged Chinese attempts to hack British citizens’ DNA data will threaten the health of the country and national security, MPs have warned.

In an article for i, senior Labour MP Fabian Hamilton said the Government has failed to “tackle vulnerabilities” in the UK’s digital systems amid claims that Beijing-linked companies have attempted to hack British genomics data.

He urged ministers to provide “urgent clarity” on hacking attempts after allegations that the Chinese BGI Group was given a Covid testing contract despite claims, which the firm has denied, that it had sought to hack into NHS genetics data.

A failure to act would have “serious national security implications” as mass harvesting of DNA data would give China “enormous leverage” over the UK, just as it has used its dominance of the solar panel industry to “punish strategic competitors” and create “dependency”.

Mr Hamilton warned that the mass harvesting of DNA data could allow China to analyse and predict which diseases may impact the British, or any other, population over a period of time, allowing Beijing to “acquire pharmaceutical patents and technologies which could seriously undermine any UK public health initiatives”.

This could mean China acquiring exclusive rights to a medication or vaccine which treats a disease that is more prevalent in the UK than other countries, meaning the Westminster Government would be relying on Beijing to ensure the health of the nation.

The Leeds North East MP, who sits on the Commons Foreign Affairs committee, wrote: “With attention focused on China’s cyberwarfare capabilities, there is an opportunity for the UK Government to act in the national interest by protecting our sensitive data.

“Only by acknowledging the danger coming from Chinese firms, as our US allies have, can we begin to protect ourselves.”

Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith meanwhile warned that China could use AI and advanced computing to act on the data to create new diseases that could pose a specific threat to the UK based on elements of the national identity that make the population more prone to certain illnesses than others.

“The coming together of AI and genomics is a fact,” the ex-Cabinet minister said.

“It is dangerous because with AI and now advanced computing they will be able to generate all sorts of issues and problems for us in terms of diseases.

“They can target them on to the elements of your national identity that make you more prone to them than others.

“We stupidly have allowed them to have the data.

“The Government has to realise China poses a threat.

“Businesses are so keen to do deals with them they never ask: what will they do with all this data?”

Last year, then-science minister George Freeman warned of the risks of Chinese data hacking, telling a Westminster Hall debate that every week “Genomics England was receiving several hack attacks from BGI, and that was a wake-up call for all of us”.

He added that BGI was “aggressive in terms of international acquisition of intellectual property”, only for Government sources to later backtrack on the claims by insisting “there is no evidence of attempted hacking of Genomics England in 2014 from BGI”.

Mr Freeman then issued a correction to Hansard, the official parliamentary record, reasserting that there is no evidence that BGI attempted to hack Genomics England.

Luke de Pulford, executive director of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said: “We still haven’t got to the bottom of why a minister claimed on the floor of the House of Commons that BGI were attempting hacks daily, and then hastily withdrew.

“We know that Beijing has been harvesting genomic data on a mass scale, giving them obvious strategic advantage.

“It’s high time we stopped making excuses for the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] and protected UK user data.”

The warnings came after i revealed that dozens of parliamentarians had been targeted by Chinese hacking attempts.

The Government has been approached for comment.

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