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 Beijingâs objectives in the resource rich continent.
âBeijingâs opportunities for eavesdropping in Africa are vast. Chinese companiesâmany of which are state-owned, all of which are legally obliged to cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party on intelligence mattersâhave 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 continentâs 4G networks and at least fourteen intra-governmental ICT networks, including a data center in Zambia that houses the entirety of the governmentâs records,â according to a report titled âHow China Has Been Using Huawei-Made Cameras to Spy on the African Union Headquartersâ published in the leading US magazine The National Interest.
âThe reportânow confirmed by two other media outletsâthat broke the original story of the Chinese governmentâs AU spying demonstrates what Beijing can do with a structure one of its company builds. The AUâs compromised ICT system was also provided by Huawei, whose equipment is often swiss cheesed with security vulnerabilities that make them easily exploitable. Given Huaweiâs links to Chinaâs Ministry of State Security, it beggars belief that Beijing lacks anything less than an excellent idea of how to access those backdoors,â according to The National Interest.
Beijing has many reasons to take advantage of the spying opportunities its companiesâ 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.
âYet the Chinese government spends a lot of time and energy trying to influence African leaders to support Beijingâs agenda at a level beyond what simple concern for their countriesâ national interests would prompt. These charm campaigns include everything from bribery to throwing up flashy infrastructure projects during election times to lavishing âno-strings-attachedâ aid on rulers to feed their patronage networks.â
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 officialâs habits, personality, and proclivities that would help Beijing effectively cajole or coerce him or her, the report noted.