Senator Sam Brownback (Kansas) is warning that China is planning to mount a massive espionage operation on guests staying at major hotels during the upcoming Olympic Games next month.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Although they consistently deny it, China has a history of spying on both business and government visitors. They also consistently get accused by governments around the world of hacking into sensitive systems.
Recently, there was a lot of speculation that Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez’s laptop was hacked during a visit to China and the information was used to hack into government computers. Saavy business types have been quoted as saying that they do not carry laptops or smartphones with them while travelling in China. Of course — if you needed some more substantial proof China is behind a lot of espionage — you could read about all the people getting caught by the FBI stealing sensitive information for the People’s Republic.
Senator Brownback made a statement on Tuesday that he was warned that the Chinese Public Security Bureau has made it mandatory for hotels chains to install spyware and special hardware by the end of July. Failure to install the required items (or disabling them afterwards) will lead to “punishment,” according to a document in the Senator’s possession.
Of course, all this is being done in the name of security, according to People’s Republic officials. Oddly enough — possibly to address privacy concerns — they plan to employ pop up windows warning people the Internet is not private in China. I’m sure this is assuring to privacy advocates, worldwide (pun intended).
The Senator’s staff handed out English language translations of two separate documents he said were received by hotels, outlining the government’s instructions on how to implement Internet spying software and hardware by the end of July to members of the press on Tuesday.
In many people’s opinion — the intention of this security system is monitor people — who might want to expose China’s dismal human rights record during the games. In fact, Senator Brownback was initially warned about these so-called security measures by human rights advocates.
Further evidence of this is that on Tuesday access to sites like Amnesty International or any with a Tibet address were being blocked at the main Olympic press center in Bejing, according to the article in the Los Angeles Times on this story.
Senator Brownback announced during the conference that he and Senator Bunning of Kentucky were introducing a resolution calling on China to suspends it’s plan to censor free speech and spy on people. It should be noted that years ago — when bidding for the games — China promised to not to do this.
While many speculate the intent of this so-called “security system” is to supress free speech (censor people), I’d highly recommend anyone with sensitive information be extremely careful if they are in China during the Olympic games. The real espionage and hacking will not be as apparent as this has been. A good place to learn about Chinese hacking and espionage is the Dark Visitor site, which should give anyone a good idea what information risks they might face during a visit to China.