In 2012, the African Union officially opened it shiny new headquarters, the magnificent structure was built and paid for by China as a gift to its “African friends”. Unknown to African leaders, the Asian giant had left a secret backdoor in the computers which allowed it to snoop on their activities. 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 LeMonde.
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 French newspaper wrote:
“According to several sources within the institution, all sensitive content could be spied on by China. It’s a spectacular leak of data, spread from January 2012 to January 2017.”
Once the problem was discovered, African Union officials acted quickly to fix it. The organisation acquired its own servers, and began encrypting its communications. In July 2017, a team of experts from Algeria – a country with a notoriously efficient intelligence community – along with cybersecurity experts from Ethiopia combed the building from top to bottom. The newspaper also reports that cyber security experts removed microphones hidden in the desks and walls of the headquarters.