MI5 warns over Chinese govt cyber-threat

The UK's domestic spy agency MI5 has warned that British commercial secrets are at risk from industrial espionage by Chinese government hackers.

The unusually candid warning to banks and financial institutions came in a letter from MI5 chief Jonathan Evans, FT.com reported, quoting private security experts.

The warning, which specifies Chinese state enterprises as the prime source of cyber-attacks, is apparently an effort to remind private sector firms that they are as much as risk as government agencies.

In a speech last month, Evans complained about Russian and Chinese espionage activities. 'Despite the cold war ending nearly two decades ago, my service is still expending resources to defend the UK against unreconstructed attempts by Russia, China and others to spy on us,' he said.

'They not only use traditional methods to collect intelligence but increasingly deploy sophisticated technical attacks, using the internet to penetrate computer networks.'

Evans' warning follows a spate of complaints earlier this year from German, US, UK, and other western governments over attacks on government computer networks by Chinese hackers.