Snowden: NSA hacked China telcos, submarine cable network firm

Snowden: NSA hacked China telcos, submarine cable network firm

Summary: Former NSA contractor reportedly provided documents pointing to the U.S. government hacking of major Chinese telcos, Internet submarine cable giant Pacnet, and Chinese research institute Tsinghua University.

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Edward Snowden provided documents which claimed the NSA has been hacking major Chinese telcos to access text messages, and hacked computers at Pacnet and Tsinghua University.

Edward Snowden has told Hong Kong publication Sunday Morning Post the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has been hacking Chinese mobile companies to steal text messages and attacking the servers at Tsinghua University.

The former technican for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and contractor for the NSA had provided documents revealing attacks on computers over a four-year period, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Sunday.

The documents had listed operational details of specific attacks on computers including Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, dates of attacks and whether a computer was still being monitored remotely.

The report claimed NSA extensively hacked major telecommunication companies in China to access text messages. According to Snowden data from Chinese telcos had been comrpomised, with millions of private text messages mined by the NSA.

It also stated the NSA was conducting sustained attacks on the network backbones at Tsinghua University, which is regarded as China's top education and research institute, and carries on extensive work on next-generation Web technologies.

The accusations also point to the hacking of computers at Pacnet's Hong Kong headquarters, which owns one of the most extensive fiber optic submarine cable networks in Asia. Pacnet has signed major deals with China's top mobile phone companies, and owns more than 46,000 kilometers of fiber-optic cables, which connect its regional data centers across the Asia-Pacific region including Hong Kong, China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.

The news comes after slides leaked from an NSA presentation in mid-June, revealing a program called PRISM, which allegedly sifted user data from U.S. Web companies, and raised concerns of a close relationship between those companies and the NSA, though both sides have denied the claims.

This also raised concerns among Asian governments whose e-mails may also be vulnerable to PRISM as some officials used e-mail services run by Yahoo or Gmail as their ministries lacked proper IT infrastructure or due to personal preferences.

Topics: Privacy, Government, Security, Telcos, China

Ellyne Phneah

About Ellyne Phneah

Elly grew up on the adrenaline of crime fiction and it spurred her interest in cybercrime, privacy and the terror on the dark side of IT. At ZDNet Asia, she has made it her mission to warn readers of upcoming security threats, while also covering other tech issues.

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5 comments
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  • And we know this because...

    And we know this because.. it was in this particular Chinese newspaper article. Could be true. Could also be the easiest score EVER by Beijing in accusing the US of spying. Or trough influence from the US itself to paint Snowden black.

    Anyway, that's something to keep in mind before wanting to hang him from the highest tree.

    As an aside: telcos.. a cable firm.. a univerisity. Really? That's the extent of electronic spying on China, just about the most crucial country in the world? Never mind the vast Chinese military, industries, political and diplomatic leadership... That's... IT? Could this be the NSA itself, a cry for help in getting more budget? Because if true they most definitely need it!
    Han CNX
    • And you know

      And you know "That's the extent of electronic spying on China" because.....
      rammjet90th
    • Response

      You might be on to something. I don't know about more budget money, yet I can say the friendship is shacking between both super powers. This is only a tear drop on what's to come from cyber warfare. Lastly, Painting Some One Black (DOES NOT MEAN THEY ARE EVIL). This expression can be offensive, YET EVERY COLOR COMES FROM BLACK, So I do not see how it relates, just a thought!
      jump28man
  • This is so funny because, well read this from D. Gerwirzt May 29 2013

    Your comment contains words or phrases associated with spam and will not appear on the site until it has been checked by a moderator.

    ZDNet has to fix this man. Its preventing more than a bit of people from being able to post much of anything.

    For most readers here, if they cant post, they aren't coming back.
    Cayble
  • Hush!

    Why so little commentary on this post? Are you Americans being filtered by your federal government not to say anything now?
    seesaw1