Snowden: NSA hacked China telcos, submarine cable network firm

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.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor
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.

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