Britain's MI5 intelligence agency is warning that cybercrime perpetrated by China is on the rise following hacking attacks against Rolls-Royce and Royal Dutch Shell.
The agency recently sent letters to some 300 banks, accounting and legal firms warning that "state organisations" of China were plying their networks for information, according to the Times of London on Monday.
The UK government refused on Monday to confirm the letters. However, the reported correspondence comes just a month after the UK's top domestic intelligence officer warned of "high levels" of covert activity by at least 20 foreign intelligence agencies, with Russia and China as the most active.
"A number of countries continue to devote considerable time and energy trying to steal our sensitive technology on civilian and military projects, and trying to obtain political and economic intelligence at our expense," said Jonathan Evans, director general of MI5, in Manchester on 5 November.
"They do not only use traditional methods to collect intelligence but increasingly deploy sophisticated technical attacks, using the Internet to penetrate computer networks," he said.
The Times, quoting an unnamed source, reported that Rolls-Royce's network was infected with a Trojan horse program by Chinese hackers that sent information back to a remote server. Dutch Shell uncovered a Chinese spying ring in Houston, aimed at pilfering confidential pricing information for the oil giant's operations in Africa, the paper said, citing "security sources."
Representatives for both companies contacted in London on Monday did not return calls for comment.