ENEMY states routinely meddle in British politics by targeting ministers and MPs, the country’s top spook has warned.
MI5 chief Ken McCallum laid bare the rising threat of hostile powers attempting to disrupt the heart of government.
He used his first interview in the job to warn that the danger posed by menacing Russia and China was “growing in severity and complexity”.
Mr McCallum told Times Radio: “It’s not just about espionage, the stealing of state secrets any more… it’s quite a wide range of abilities to interfere with our economy, with our academia, with our democracy, with our society, until the interference is a much wider and more complex challenge.”
The spymaster also railed against Silicon Valley giants like Facebook for giving terrorists a “free pass” by allowing them to plot in secret.
Facebook’s encrypted messages makes it hard for MI5 operatives to catch home-grown bomb-makers, he warned.
Mr McCallum told Times Radio: “If you have end-to-end default encryption with absolutely no means of unwrapping that encryption, you are in effect, giving those rare people – terrorists or people who are organising child sexual abuse online, some of the worst people in our society – a free pass where they know that nobody can see into what they are doing in those private living rooms.”
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He put Silicon Valley on notice that “decisions taken in California boardrooms are every bit as relevant to our ability to do our jobs as decisions taken in Afghanistan or Syria”.
At 46, the youngest director-general of Britain’s security service has previously warned terrorists were trying to hack people working from home in the pandemic.
Mr McCallum stressed he was not trying to create a Big Brother state with a “camera in everyone’s living room” but wanted the tools to foil terror plots.
A Facebook spokesperson said that “strong encryption is essential to keep everyone safe from hackers and criminals and is already the leading security used by many services.
“We have no tolerance for terrorism or child exploitation on our platforms and are building strong safety measures into our plans, including using information like behavioural patterns and user reports to combat such abuse. We will continue to work with industry experts, law enforcement and security agencies to combat criminal activity and to keep people safe across all our platforms.”