Despite Chinese people being some of the most enthusiastic internet users in the world, we all know that China and the internet don’t exactly go hand in hand…actually that’s probably an understatement. We are all subjected to the great firewall of China, but it seems that the government (accidentally?) opened the gates earlier this year; but instead of removing the censorship, they hijacked US web traffic.
In April of this year, 15% of the world’s internet traffic, including data to/from the Pentagon, and other official US governmental and military sites, was rerouted through China for 18 minutes. A 316 page report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said that massive volumes of internet traffic intended for .gov and .mil sites was hijacked by Chinese state-owned ‘China Telecom’. Traffic intended for large companies such as Microsoft and Dell was also hijacked.
Some readers may be wondering why there wasn’t more of a media storm in April; well, according to one of the big cheeses over at McAfee, that is because the nature of the hijacking is still slightly uncertain and the implications can be difficult for those without the ‘cyber know how’ to grasp….that includes us! In the report by the Commission they have stated that:
“Although the Commission has no way to determine what, if anything, Chinese telecommunications firms did to the hijacked data, incidents of this nature could have a number of serious implications”
In short, information sent from A to B was for some reason redirected through China. If someone was sat in California emailing or messaging some confidential information to someone in Washington D.C, instead of the information going through a server in the States, it was redirected through in China. Like getting a flight from Shanghai to Beijing and going via Chicago.
In short, China could have been carrying out eavesdropping or message deciphering activities. But, according to the National Defense Industrial Association:
‘Nobody outside of China can say, at least publicly, what happened to the terabytes of data after the traffic entered China.’
This is certainly something to be concerned about and precisely why the Obama administration are upping the ante RE cyber safety. The previously mentioned storm cloud that has yet to materialise could be on its way though; one of the focuses of the Commission’s report is “the increasingly sophisticated nature of malicious computer activity associated with China” as 28% of the Worlds phishing emails and scams originate in China.