West faces a moment of reckoning over technology, UK top cyber spy says

LONDON, April 23 (Reuters). The West faces a moment of reckoning unless it takes profound measures to ensure that technologies that determine its prosperity are not controlled by competitors like China, the director of the UK’s GCHQ spy agency said on Friday.

The British spies believe that within decades, China could master all of the major new technologies of this century, particularly artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and genetics.

In an unusually blunt speech, GCHQ Director Jeremy Fleming said that UK cyberpower could not be taken for granted and that the rules were changing in ways that states did not always control.

“Without action, it is becoming increasingly clear that the key technologies we will rely on for our future prosperity and security will not be shaped and controlled by the West,” said Fleming in a lecture at London’s Imperial College, according to a text from his pre-delivery address Approved.

“We are now facing a moment of reckoning.”

GCHQ, which gathers communications from around the world to identify and disrupt threats to the UK, has close ties with the US National Security Agency and wiretapping agencies in Australia, Canada and New Zealand in a consortium called Five Eyes.

Fleming said if the UK is to remain a global cyberpower, it must develop “sovereign technologies” in areas like Quantum, including cryptographic technologies, to protect sensitive information and capabilities.

He also called for better promotion of the right market conditions to enable innovation and diversity in a wider range of technologies.

“Britain really is a global cyberpower – a big beast in the digital world,” he will say. “But historical strength doesn’t mean that we can assume that we will be in the future.”

In cyber intelligence, the United States is ranked the world’s leading power by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, followed by the UK, China and Israel. (Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Michael Holden)