There has been so much domestic chatter about the FISA court granting warrants on U.S. citizens or intercepting communications between foreign nationals/diplomats and Americans, but in related reading –> US and Britain refine their ability to tap into airline passenger’s mobile phones while they are in the air.
China built and paid for the African Union’s computer network – but inserted a backdoor allowing it access to the continental organisation’s confidential information
In January 2017, the information technology unit at the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa noticed something strange, according to a stunning investigation in French newspaper Le Monde.
Every night, between midnight and 2am, there was a strange peak in data usage – even though the building was almost entirely empty. Upon further investigation, the technicians noticed something even stranger. That data – which included confidential information – was being sent to servers based in Shanghai.
The African Union’s shiny new headquarters was built and paid for by the Chinese government, as a gift to its “African friends”. But when the building was officially opened in 2012, China left a backdoor into the African Union’s computer network, allowing it to access the institution’s secrets at will.
“According to several sources within the institution, all sensitive content could be spied on by China,” wrote Le Monde. “It’s a spectacular leak of data, spread from January 2012 to January 2017.”
The Chinese mission to the AU did not respond to Le Monde’s request for comment.
Once the problem was discovered, African Union officials acted quickly to fix it. The organisation acquired its own servers, and began encrypting its communications. In July 2017, a team of experts from Algeria – a country with a notoriously efficient intelligence community – along with cybersecurity experts from Ethiopia combed the building from top to bottom, looking for hidden microphones and other potential weaknesses.
China would not be the first supposedly friendly superpower to spy on the African Union. A separate investigation in December 2016, conducted by Le Monde and The Intercept, revealed that African Union officials were targeted for surveillance by British intelligence.
*** The CIA and likely the NSA have a handle on all this but does the White House and the Congress, such that there is a cyber policy? Nope…. Just because there is a Chinese network in the Africa Union, does not mean it does not affect connected networks…..
A senior CIA analyst said China is continuing to conduct aggressive cyberespionage operations against the U.S., contrary to claims by security experts who say Beijing curbed cyberattacks in the past few years.
“We know the Chinese are very active in targeting our government, U.S. industry and those of our partners through cyberespionage,” said Michael Collins, deputy assistant CIA director and head of the agency’s East Asia Mission Center.
“It’s a very real, big problem, and we need to do more about it,” Mr. Collins told a recent security conference in Aspen, Colorado.
Mr. Collins said solving the problem of Chinese cyberattacks will require an “all-of-government, all-of-country approach to pushing back against it.”
The comments contradict a number of cybersecurity experts who have said Beijing’s digital spying and information theft decreased sharply as a result of the 2015 agreement between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The two leaders announced the cyber deal with great fanfare and said both countries had agreed to curtail cyberespionage against businesses.