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According to Dmitri Alperovitch, vice president of threat research for McAfee, for a short amount of time this April 15% of Internet traffic was routed through China. Most troubling about the incident is the apparent lack of motive — as well as the fact that there were no obvious adverse side effects.
The hijacking was made possible because of the way the global telecommunications grid operates: on trust. Data flows on the Internet through whatever pathways report that they are the quickest and most efficient for traffic. On April 8, China Telecom told the world’s Internet Service Providers that channels were the best for traffic, resulting in terrabytes of data being sent through the Chinese network, even if both sender and receiver were in the United States.
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As National Defense explains:
This happens accidentally a few times per year, Alperovitch said. What set this incident apart from other such mishaps was the fact that China Telecom could manage to absorb this large amount of data and send it back out again without anyone noticing a disruption in service. In previous incidents, the data would have reached a dead end, and users would not have been able to connect.
Though some of the data that was hijacked came from American, Japanese and Australian military networks, the U.S. government has said that the situation was not cause for alarm. All classified information sent over U.S. military networks is encrypted.
As with previous Chinese cyber-security breaches such as GhostNet, it is unclear whether the hijacking was the work of the Chinese government, or independent nationalist sources inside China. The Chinese Embassy in Washington said the news was based on “unfounded, groundless information.” (via Gizmodo)