By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Jan. 30: The swanky African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia funded and built by China was reportedly hacked every night for the last five years by China, accessing confidential information through what is being called a ‘secret backdoor’ in the computer system.
French newspaper Le Monde on Jan. 26 reported that China could access information from the continental headquarter “at will” and said a “spectacular leak of data, spread from January 2012 to January 2017.”
The AU’s headquarter which was fully funded and built by China acted as a “Trojan horse” to Chinese interests, according to Professor of International Relations at University of Westminster Dibyesh Anand. The $200m compound was inaugurated in 2012 as a gift by China to its “African friends”.
The hack discovered last year prompted the combing of the whole system and change of servers and IT system. Bug sweeps by authorities also led to discovery of microphones concealed in walls and tables in the building.
On Monday, China’s ambassador to the AU, Kuang Weilin denied the incident and called the article by French media agency “ridiculous and preposterous”. “China-Africa relations have brought about benefits and a lot of opportunities. Africans are happy with it. Others are not,” implying that such accusations are intended to sow discord into Sino-Africa relations.
However, China’s clandestine violations in the cyber space is both aggressive and repeated all over the world. Chinese State sponsored hacking of computers at Tibetan government-in-exile organisations in London, New York and Dharamshala was reported in as early as 2009.
Lobsang Gyatso Sither, Digital Security Programs Director at Tibet Action Institute says that Tibetan exile community continues to be spied on by China online. “China has been spying on the Exile Tibetan Community for more than a decade and continue to do so with no consequence. And with the new China Cyber Security Law, all Apps/Websites must provide full access to the Chinese Government, it then becomes a question of how much access are we giving,” referring to widely used apps such as Wechat where rampant misuse and monitoring of users have been reported.