A lengthy new congressional report on U.S.-China relations details two major Internet security events that saw Chinese data policies and practices ripple beyond the border to affect users in other countries, including the United States.
The more alarming event came in April, when the state-owned China Telecom managed to redirect foreign Internet traffic through Chinese servers. As a result, for a brief period on April 8, about 15 percent of the world’s Internet traffic, including large portions of government and military transmissions, were “hijacked” and rerouted to Chinese servers, according to the new report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
“Although the Commission has no way to determine what, if anything, Chinese telecommunications firms did to the hijacked data, incidents of this nature could have a number of serious implications,” the study’s authors wrote. “This level of access could enable surveillance of specific users or sites.”
In March, Internet users in the United States and Chile who tried to log on to popular social sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, a Beijing-based root domain name server issued faulty responses, briefly redirecting the users to errant or non-existent servers, essentially imposing the restrictions common to China’s Great Firewall outside the country’s borders.
The study’s authors concluded that that incident “helps illustrate the implications of China’s effort to impose ‘localized’ restrictions to something as inherently global in scope as the Internet,” though they the “incidents do not appear to be a deliberate act of cross-border censorship from China.”