Philippines to Monitor China Telecom For Spying, Cybersecurity Threats

A man walks past a China Telecom store in Wuhan, in central China’s Hubei province on Aug. 21, 2013. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)



June 20, 2019 Updated: June 20, 2019

The Philippines will be monitoring China Telecom’s upcoming operations in the country for spying and other cybersecuritythreats, Nikkei Asian Review reported on June 20.

The country will be using a government-operated cybersecurity platform to oversee Mislatel, a new telecommunications carrier that is partly owned by China’s state-owned China Telecom, amid growing security concerns over Chinese tech companies worldwide.

“We will be the one monitoring them,” Philippines’ acting Information and Communications Technology Secretary Elisio Rio told Nikkei. “They should make sure that they will not be a threat to our national security or else they will lose their license.”

Mislatel is due to receive an operating license in July to become the country’s third telecom carrier, and will start operating next year, according to the outlet.

China Telecom is the company’s largest stakeholder, owning 40 percent.

The platform, called the Cybersecurity Management System, was jointly developed by U.S.-based Verint Systems and a Philippines IT firm, the outlet reported. It will check Mislatel’s activities against data privacy rules and process suspicious behavior such as unusual traffic from IP addresses.

Rio told Nikkei that the system can monitor unauthorized data breaches that come in and out of the carrier’s mobile network.

Allan Cabanlong, assistant secretary for cybersecurity at the Department of Information and Communication Technology told the outlet that Mislatel will be the first to connect to the monitoring system, but ultimately all telecom companies will be required to sign on.

China Telecom is China’s third largest telecom provider. Cybersecurity analysts have voiced concerns that the company could be used by the Chinese regime to spy on and steal data from foreign citizens.

Earlier this month, a large portion of mobile device traffic in Europe was rerouted through systems controlled by China Telecom for two hours. Experts from U.S. tech company Oracle investigated this incident and found that the company “hijacked” the mobile traffic, a type of hacking called Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) hijacking.

China Telecom has rerouted Western traffic on many previous occasions in recent years.

Last October, experts from U.S. Naval War College, and Yuval Shavitt from Tel Aviv University published a paper, concluding that these BGP hijackings by China Telecom were intentional.

The report said the Chinese regime may have been switching from cyberattacks to a more subtle method of rerouting overseas traffic through the telecom firm’s networks, to steal data from target countries or companies.

It noted that, through this method, the Chinese regime could access a target organization’s networks, take valuable data, add malicious implants to seemingly normal traffic, or simply modify or corrupt data.

Joshua Philipp and Nicole Hao contributed to this report.