FBI to Silicon Valley firms: your Chinese and Russian workers are spying on you

There are your conclusions about the extent of the threat from foreign governments, but then there's your government's conclusions about the extent of the threat from them, you and the people you associate with. The FBI is reportedly warning Silicon Valley companies—in secret—that their Chinese and Russian workers may be forced to (or simply paid to) spy on them.

But the risk to tech companies is real, the FBI says: Employees are being persuaded, or more typically, coerced by foreign autocracies into stealing information or handing over login credentials. In one case [FBI special agent Nick] Shenkin worked on, Chinese government agents threatened to deny an employee's mother dialysis back in China if he didn't steal proprietary information from a large hardware/software company.

"This is a quotidian activity," Shenkin told Protocol in an interview. "This is a massive fundamental activity that bolsters and is one of the mainstays of many autocratic countries and their governments."

For the last few years, San Francisco-based Shenkin has been quietly briefing venture firms, startups, academics and tech industry groups that might be of interest to foreign actors.