British spies ‘constantly’ battling foreign states trying to steal our secrets after Russia nabs Oxford jab formula


BRITISH spies are “constantly” battling hostile foreign states trying to steal our most prized secrets, ministers revealed today.

Spooks are increasingly doing battle online where the threats are “more sophisticated than they ever have been before”.

Vladimir Putin has been accused of stealing the Oxford vaccine formula
Home Office minister Damian Hinds said British spooks are ‘constantly’ battling cyber threats

Home Office minister Damian Hinds made the remarks after it emerged Russia stole the formula for the Oxford vaccine to create its own jab.

Kremlin agents swiped vital data from drugmaker AstraZeneca which they then used to come up with the almost identical Sputnik shot.

Mr Hinds said the UK and other Western powers are waging an increasingly intensive battle against “industrial and economic espionage”.

The security minister didn’t name any culprits, but Russia and China have been frequently named and shamed by experts for using such tactics.

He said: “It would be correct to say we face threats of this type that more sophisticated, more extensive than they ever have been before.

“The face of espionage is very different and we need to constantly upgrade our capability. These are very serious matters.

“Constantly there are foreign states who would like to get their hands on sensitive information.

“Sometimes commercial secrets, sometimes scientific, intellectual property. We need to be exceptionally vigilant.”

Mr Hinds said he couldn’t comment on the specific case involving Russia and the AstraZeneca jab.

But security services have briefed ministers that Vladimir Putin’s spies were behind the theft.

Putin blamed

They say they have proof that vital data was pinched from the drugs firm — including the blueprint for the Covid jab.

Russia’s Sputnik jab uses similar technology to the Oxford designed vaccine.

Security teams are now sure it was copied. It is understood the data was stolen by a foreign agent in person.

Last year spies pointed the finger at President Putin. They said they were “more than 95 per cent” sure Russian state-sponsored hackers had targeted UK, US and Canadian bodies developing a Covid vaccine.

The late security minister James Brokenshire said at the time: “We are very careful in terms of calling these things out, ensuring we can have that confidence in attribution. We believe we have this here.”

Tory MP Bob Seely, an expert in Russian affairs, said: “I think we need to get serious about Russian and Chinese espionage.

“Whether it is stealing the design for Astra- Zeneca or blackmailing us over energy by these authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, we need to get wise to them.”

Downing Street declined to comment.