They say you should never look a gift horse in the mouth – but if it’s in the form of a Chinese computer, perhaps you should. The Chinese government has been handing out IT equipment to some of the world’s more impoverished nations as part of its Belt and Road trade initiative, but questions are now being asked about the impact of these gifts on the security of the recipients’ information networks.
It is hard to tell whether any of this free technology has been used for covert data gathering, as many of the recipients do not have sophisticated monitoring systems. It is believed, however, that China siphoned off information from the African Union via a donated computer system. Many First World countries are extremely reluctant to allow Chinese-made technology into high security areas such as the military or government, in case they are used for cyber-espionage.
China’s increasingly expansive international political, military and economic policy has heightened paranoia around its surveillance and information gathering operations, especially as the global technology supply chain makes devices and software accessible to tampering during the production process.