Rabat- Following an investigation that exposed Chinese espionage on the African Union (AU) headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the Chinese Ambassador to the AU, Kuang Weili, called the report “sensational” and “absurd.”
The investigation, which was conducted by French newspaper “Le Monde Afrique,” claimed that over the last five years, the AU servers were all connected to others located in Shanghai. The organization’s technical staff later discovered that between midnight and 2 a.m., computer servers were reaching a peak in data transfer activity.
Every night, the secrets of the AU were being stored more than 8,000 km away by what was thought to be a diplomatic ally of Africa.
China’s ambassador to the AU, said during the 30th African Union summit which currently takes place in Addis Ababa, that the report is a “sensational story, but also completely false and nonsense,”
According to the Chinese diplomat, the said article will “damage the image of the newspaper,” but not the relationship between China and Africa.
He also questioned the timing of the report, as it was released one day before African leaders kick-off their annual summit at the AU headquarters.
The $200 million complex was built by China and donated to African Union in 2012. According to Le Monde Afrique, the computer systems were fully equipped by the Chinese, allowing them to open an undocumented portal that gives Chinese administrators access to the AU’s computing system. This “backdoor” is an intentional fault put into code to allow hackers and intelligence agencies to gain illicit access to information.
“Following this discovery, we have taken some steps to strengthen our cybersecurity,” a AU official told Le Monde.
Another official believes that, “they are not alone.” In fact, the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the British intelligence agencies (GCHQ) have had their share of surveillance on the AU building, according to documents which were gathered by Le Monde, in collaboration with The Intercept.
After the Chinese alleged scheme was exposed, the AU acquired its own servers and declined China’s offer to configure them. The AU encrypts all electronic communications and, from now on, the highest officials of the institution have foreign telephone lines and more secure communication applications.
They have also taken stricter security measures: cybersecurity experts inspected the building’s rooms and disposed of microphones placed under the desks and in walls by the Chinese workers.