Czech counterintelligence highlights stepped up Russian, Chinese activity

The Czech domestic counterintelligence and security service has once again highlighted Russian and Chinese espionage activities as among the most active in pushing their political and economic interests in the country. Stepped up cyberattacks and hacking formed part of the activities.

Czech Security Information Service headquarters, photo: Miaow Miaow, Public DomainCzech Security Information Service headquarters, photo: Miaow Miaow, Public Domain The Czech state domestic intelligence and counterintelligence agency, the Security Information Service (BIS) gives an annual report which highlights the main security threats in the country and where they come from.

As in previous years, China and Russia are once again picked out as being the biggest players in the country as regards espionage and pushing their diplomatic, political, and economic goals. Russia has long had the most spies in the country using diplomatic cover. Powerful economic interests, the report says, once again stepped up their efforts to get government decisions and state contracts that would benefit them. And this was most evident when attempts were made to try and stage new information and communication technology tenders or repair flawed ones from the past.

The latest report, covering developments in 2016, highlights the increased activity of companies and economic interests backed by Russian capital in trying to get round Czech regulations and the stepped up aggression employed to meet their goals and avoid discovery and punishment. Czech intelligence says one of the goals was to undermine the country’s energy policies, such as increased diversity of energy supplies and infrastructure. But similar steps were also evident in terms of planned transport links.

Cyberattacks out of Russia also focussed on Czech military, diplomatic, academic and research sectors. Czech spokesman Ladislav Šticha explained:

"There was the attempt, for example, to get into various e-mail accounts and get access to sensitive personal information and data of the target person."

Illustrative photo: PeteLinforth / Pixabay, CC0Illustrative photo: PeteLinforth / Pixabay, CC0 The Chinese were far from inactive either with their focus on trying to crush expressions of support for Tibet or for the continued independence of Taiwan. But their operations have, according to Czech intelligence, evolved and they are no longer trying to boost their local infiltration but better make use of their contacts and existing influence for domestic and foreign policy goals.

While the number of Chinese "spies" operating permanently in the Czech Republic have not increased, many more operatives are being shipped in as part of visiting missions.

The report also says that Iranian intelligence was active in the Czech Republic though no terrorist threat was posed. Muslim groups in the country remained moderate and uninfluenced by radicalisation even in the face of increased Islamophobia.

The security report also underlines flaws in Czech safeguards, for instance, the counterintelligence service’s own reports going to people who have not been security cleared. Top Czech civil servants were not immune to helping major economic and clientelist groups even though these went against national interests, it added.

It warned that across the board, the Czech state lacked the technical, legal, and institutional capacity to resist security threats.