Snowden: U.S. is spying on Chinese carriers, stealing ‘millions’ of texts

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In what will surely rile up tensions between the United States and China even further, everyone’s favorite former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed Saturday that the U.S. is tapping into Chinese mobile carriers to access customers’ text messages.

It’s not just a few messages, either. Snowden told the South China Morning Post that the U.S. is harvesting millions of Chinese text messages.

“China should set up a national information security review commission as soon as possible,” Snowden told the paper.

Chinese mobile users sent over 900 billion text messages in 2012, according to government statistics, so if Snowden’s claims are true, the United States’ surveillance isn’t too extensive in the grand scheme of things. (Chinese officials likely won’t see the situation in that light, though.)

The reveal will make an already rocky relationship between the U.S. and China even more tumultuous. President Barack Obama and new Chinese new president Xi Jinping have already had several conversations about cybersecurity relations, and both leaders are also kicking off a series of regular talks between the two countries.

China hasn’t admitted to any U.S. hacking at this point despite evidence from security experts and the Pentagon. “China is using its computer network exploitation capability to support intelligence collection against the U.S. diplomatic, economic, and defense industrial base sectors that support U.S. national defense programs,” a Pentagon report said last month.

Photo credit: Ivan Walsh/Flickr

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