January 29, 2018
China built and paid for the African Union’s computer network – but inserted a backdoor allowing it access to the continental organization’s confidential information
In January 2017, the information technology unit at the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa noticed something strange, according to a stunning investigation in French newspaper Le Monde.
Every night, between midnight and 2am, there was a strange peak in data usage – even though the building was almost entirely empty. Upon further investigation, the technicians noticed something even stranger. That data – which included confidential information – was being sent to servers based in Shanghai.
The African Union’s shiny new headquarters was built and paid for by the Chinese government, as a gift to its “African friends”. But when the building was officially opened in 2012, China left a backdoor into the African Union’s computer network, allowing it to access the institution’s secrets at will.
“According to several sources within the institution, all sensitive content could be spied on by China,” wrote Le Monde. “It’s a spectacular leak of data, spread from January 2012 to January 2017.”
The Chinese mission to the AU did not respond to Le Monde’s request for comment.