The head of the UK’s cyber spy agency said China is a threat to internet securities and warned Beijing could control the “global operating system” if Western powers do not act.
“Significant technology leadership is moving East,” said GCHQ chief Jeremy Fleming said on Friday. “The concern is that China’s size and technological weight means that it has the potential to control the global operating system,” he said, adding that the UK and its allies are facing a “moment of reckoning.”
Beijing fired back at the comments on Friday, pointing to the US’s history of global surveillance and hacking. “Western countries, such as the UK and US, are actually the true empires of hacking and tapping,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
The US often accuses countries like China and Russia of cyberattacks, but rarely offers evidence to back up the claims, something Zhao mentioned. “I’d like to stress that given the virtual nature of cyberspace and the fact that there are all kinds of online actors who are difficult to trace, it’s importance to have enough evidence when investigating and identifying cyber-related incidents,” he said.
The US accuses China of setting up backdoors through communication networks and has black-listed Chinese tech firms over the claim. Most notable is Huawei, which has been banned from the US and the UK.
Like many accusations Washington makes, the US is guilty of putting backdoors in global communications networks for surveillance purposes, as revealed by the 2013 Edward Snowden leaks. Those leaks also revealed that the US was struggling to set up backdoors on Huawei devices, which could be one reason the US pressures its allies to ban the firm.
According to a Snowden document obtained by The New York Times and Der Spiegel, the NSA hacked Huawei’s main servers in 2007.
The NSA viewed the increasing amount of internet communications going through Huawei as a “unique” threat to the agency’s ability to conduct surveillance. “Many of our targets communicate over Huawei produced products, we want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products,” the NSA document said.