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Yes, European internet traffic was routed through China for a couple of hours – but it happens all the time

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A mobile traffic rerouting problem story that would likely prove entirely insignificant – unless it had, as it did, the word “China” attached to it – took place in Europe earlier this week, for a couple of hours.

And it found its way onto ZDNet.

Namely – “for a while there, about two hours” – a large chunk of European mobile traffic was rerouted through China on June 6,” ZDNet said.

Now, ask an average European, technically-minded or not, about this – and you are pretty much guaranteed to get the same reply: it’s always somebody “rerouting” my mobile traffic – more likely than not, not another European – so what’s the problem?

Be that as it may – the infrastructure of the China Telecom, China’s third-largest telco and ISP – was the one behind the two-hour work done here on June 6, according to the report.

The article specifies that the Swiss data center colocation company Safe Host accidentally made the leak resulting in over 70,000 routes – sending them to the Chinese ISP.

According to the report, the problem originated with the Swiss – mishandling a Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) route – and, BGP leaks “happen all the time.”

But this time, ZDNet seems to suggest – we should care. The incident occurred because of a BGP route leak that happened at the Swiss data center. However, China Telecom “re-announced Safe Host’s routes as its own, and by doing so, interposed itself as one of the shortest ways to reach Safe Host’s network and other nearby European telcos and ISPs.”

Then, when all this immediate trouble was out of the way – there was an academic paper, cited by ZDNet, and originally published by the US Naval War College, and the Tel Aviv University.

The paper was out last October, accusing China Telecom of hijacking the vital internet backbone of western countries.

ZDnet said the report made the case of the Chinese government abusing IPS to gather intelligence data via BGPs.

While some experts have criticized the paper, Doug Madory, Director of Oracle’s Internet Analysis division, was one of the people who stood by the report’s technical accuracy – “albeit not by its politically-charged accusations.”

This time, ZDNet said, Madory could not decide whether malice or negligence was behind the reported 2-hour-European mobile data rerouting – one that ZDNet nevertheless thought was newsworthy.

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