Source: China spies on African Union’s computers – NewsDay Zimbabwe January 30, 2018
JOHANNESBURG — China built and paid for the African Union’s (AU) computer network — but inserted a backdoor allowing it access to the continental organisation’s confidential information
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 AU’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 AU’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, AU 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 AU officials were targeted for surveillance by British intelligence.