It what could be deemed the single largest hijacking of Internet communications ever, researchers have revealed that Chinese telecom companies were able to redirect an incredible 15% of all internet traffic for more that 15 minutes in the spring of 2010.
What happened to the data is still unknown.
Experts from McAfee apparently briefed US government agencies with details of the misdirected data packets, and warned that the event could likely be repeated at any given time.
"Imagine the capability and capacity that is built into their networks. I’m not sure there was anyone else in the world who could have taken on that much traffic without breaking a sweat," Dmitri Alperovitch, McAfee's vice president of threat research stated.
US officials were reported to be unconcerned, stating that government communications are routinely encrypted - but that reaction offers little consolation to consumers and businesses who may have also had information intercepted.
The fact that government data is encrypted is no guarantee that the data could not be compromised through various techniques, as illustrated in the report.
Was this just a trial run? An exercise conducted to test the methodology? Was it merely a sampling process to determine the value of data that could be intercepted? Does it matter?
What should the international response to such a brazen act be? Can we ever expect totalitarian regimes to adhere to the rules of fair play?