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13 September 2023

Spies Amongst Us

Mark Jones, Partner in our Dispute Resolution Team asks: What can be done to mitigate the risk of potential interference in our institutions?

The news of the arrest of an alleged Chinese spy at the heart of Westminster has sent shockwaves through the system, and beyond.

The individuals are under investigation and no charges have been brought. However news of the investigation underlines the extent to which foreign states may go to in order to gain information and influence. Given this growing concern about the activities of foreign spies and the potential interference with our institutions, what can be done to mitigate the risk?

The risk is not new. In July 2023 the Intelligence and Security Committee highlighted that China was intent on interfering with the government and seeking to influence political thinking across all levels. Tackling the risk requires joined up thinking from MI5, the Secret Intelligence Service, GCHQ and others. Thorough security vetting is a must as is ongoing monitoring. Perhaps, the most fundamental thing to be done is to realise the risk exists in the first place.

The risk is widespread and an issue corporates also need to consider at Board level. The risk is not just from people inside a business but also from cyber-attacks. Steps should be taken to guard valuable intellectual property and technology and conduct thorough due diligence on employees and investors. Understanding the risk is at the centre of being able to create an effective strategy to address the risk.

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Mark Jones
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