NEW DELHI: A sensational report has emerged that alleged Chinese hackers had been obtaining security camera footage from inside the African Union (AU) headquarters building in Ethiopia which is an indication of Beijing’s objectives in the resource rich continent.
“Beijing’s opportunities for eavesdropping in Africa are vast. Chinese companies—many of which are state-owned, all of which are legally obliged to cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party on intelligence matters—have built at least 186 government buildings in Africa, including presidential residences, ministries of foreign affairs, and parliament buildings. Huawei has built more than 70 percent of the continent’s 4G networks and at least fourteen intra-governmental ICT networks, including a data center in Zambia that houses the entirety of the government’s records,” according to a report titled ‘How China Has Been Using Huawei-Made Cameras to Spy on the African Union Headquarters’ published in the leading US magazine The National Interest.
“The report—now confirmed by two other media outlets—that broke the original story of the Chinese government’s AU spying demonstrates what Beijing can do with a structure one of its company builds. The AU’s compromised ICT system was also provided by Huawei, whose equipment is often swiss cheesed with security vulnerabilities that make them easily exploitable. Given Huawei’s links to China’s Ministry of State Security, it beggars belief that Beijing lacks anything less than an excellent idea of how to access those backdoors,” according to The National Interest.
Beijing has many reasons to take advantage of the spying opportunities its companies’ activities in Africa provides. It can eavesdrop on the sensitive conversations they have with their non-African counterparts, and the Chinese government might be able to gather useful economic information it can pass to its many companies operating on the continent, the report alleged.
Many of their countries face a massive infrastructure gap, and Beijing is often happy to open its wallet for infrastructure projects. Affordable Chinese products, especially tech such as smartphones, are popular on the continent as well, according to The National Interest report.
“Yet the Chinese government spends a lot of time and energy trying to influence African leaders to support Beijing’s agenda at a level beyond what simple concern for their countries’ national interests would prompt. These charm campaigns include everything from bribery to throwing up flashy infrastructure projects during election times to lavishing “no-strings-attached” aid on rulers to feed their patronage networks.”
The information that Beijing appears to be hoovering up daily is of obvious use for those kinds of influence operations. It could offer insights into an official’s habits, personality, and proclivities that would help Beijing effectively cajole or coerce him or her, the report noted.