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State Threats in Emerging Technologies

Critical and emerging technology companies are at risk of being compromised by certain states for their technological, economic, political, and military gain. Secure your success

Last Updated 22 January 2024

The Threat

Someone’s got their eye on your IP.

Critical and emerging technology companies are at risk of being compromised by certain states for their technological, economic, political, and military gain. You may not consider your technology to have military applications or to be sensitive, but it could be stolen by state actors to fast-track their capability in a given field or be misused to repress local populations. Their targets are wide reaching – from ‘traditional’ defence and aerospace to new and emerging technologies, including advanced manufacturing and data science.

In December 2020, the Netherlands expelled two alleged Russian intelligence officers for espionage against the Dutch high-tech sector. The officers had reportedly built a network of individuals with experience in the Dutch science and technology sector. The technologies in which these officers were reportedly most interested have military as well as civilian applications. The Dutch Interior Minister said that the actions taken by the alleged Russian intelligence officers had “likely caused damage to the organisations where the sources are or were active and thus possibly also to the Dutch economy and national security”.1

States will target companies of all sizes, deploying their cyber, human, and technical capabilities to steal ideas, information, and techniques, such as trade secrets, financial information and information on your customers or suppliers. State-backed actors will also subvert legitimate business collaborations and transactions, or indirect routes via supply chain attacks, to achieve their state’s aims. These activities pose a terminal risk to your business. It is therefore essential to know and trust who you are doing business with.

You may not see the hand of a state. State actors such as the Russian and Chinese governments can compel their citizens and organisations by law to work with intelligence agencies, willingly or not, to seek commercially sensitive information. Other states may also target critical and emerging technology companies through intermediaries if this meets their aims.

In 2011, several laptops were stolen from a Scottish renewable manufacturer. Two months previously, the company had been visited by a 60-strong delegation led by a senior Chinese official. A few years later, pictures began emerging which showed a Chinese firm making a product virtually identical to the UK company’s wave-power device.

The UK company is now defunct, whilst the Chinese product remains under development.3

How NPSA can help

The UK’s emerging technology sector is under threat, but NPSA, the UK’s newly launched National Protective Security Authority, is here to help you to secure your success.  Visit our Secure Innovation guidance pages to learn more about how you can protect your business.

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