Whistleblower Edward Snowden told The South China Morning Post that Tsinghua University, which counts China's President Xi Jinping and previous President Hu Jintao among its graduates, was the target of extensive hacking by the US. Photo: Reuters
The United States government is hacking Chinese mobile phone companies to gather data from millions of text messages, whistleblower Edward Snowden has told the South China Morning Post.
US spies have also hacked China's prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing and Asia Pacific fibre-optic network operator Pacnet, the Post quoted Snowden as saying.
Snowden, who worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), has been charged with espionage by the US after revealing a massive spying program and has gone to ground after fleeing to Hong Kong.
"The NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cell phone companies to steal all of your SMS data," Snowden said in the interview conducted on June 12.
Government data shows almost 900 billion text messages were exchanged in China last year.
The claims followed soon after a report in Britain's Guardian in which Snowden claimed the British government's electronic eavesdropping agency had gained secret access to fibre-optic cables carrying global internet traffic and phone calls.
The Guardian said that Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had started processing vast amounts of personal information - including Facebook posts, emails, internet histories and phonecalls - and is sharing it with the NSA.
The Post has previously quoted Snowden saying there have been more than 61,000 NSA hacking operations globally, targeting powerful "network backbones" that can yield access to hundreds of thousands of individual computers.
He said these included hundreds of targets in mainland China and Hong Kong.
Snowden told the Post in the report published on Saturday that Tsinghua University, which counts China's President Xi Jinping and previous President Hu Jintao among its graduates, was the target of extensive hacking by the US.
US CHARGES SNOWDEN WITH ESPIONAGE
The university, which is home to the mainland's six big backbone networks from where internet data from millions of Chinese citizens can be gathered, was breached as recently as January, he said.
In 2009, the NSA also attacked Pacnet, the owner of one of the region's biggest fibre-optic networks, the Post reported, citing information provided by Snowden.
Pacnet, which is headquartered in Hong Kong and Singapore, owns 46,000 kilometres of fibre and operates in 13 countries, according to its website.
US authorities, meanwhile, have filed espionage charges against Snowden and asked Hong Kong to detain him, a US official says.
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