BGP is a notoriously insecure process by which routes for internet data are advertised and discovered by routers; its ubiquity and insecurity make it a prime suspect whenever it seems that national spy agencies might be diverting traffic.
So when bad BGP routes caused traffic destined for Google to be briefly routed through China on Monday, there was widespread suspicion that Chinese state actors were experimenting with, or sending a message about, their capacity to surveil Google traffic.
Now a Nigerian cable operator, Main One, has taken responsibility for the traffic diversion, claiming that it was the result of an accidental misconfiguration created during a network upgrade. Main One’s upstream provider is China Telcom, and Main One’s error caused Google traffic to be diverted to China Telcom’s network for 74 minutes.
Google has not commented extensively on the diversion except to acknowledge that it occurred. Reuters spoke to Tel Aviv University security researcher Yuval Shavitt an expert who said that the diversion might still have been deliberate — Shavitt recently published a paper alleging that China military agencies have routinely engaged in BGP-based traffic hijacking.
Glitches in border gateway protocol filters have caused multiple outages to date, including cases where traffic from U.S. internet and financial services firms was routed through Russia, China and Belarus.
Yuval Shavitt, a network security researcher at Tel Aviv University, said it was possible that Monday’s issue was not an accident.
“You can always claim that this is some kind of configuration error,” said Shavitt, who last month co-authored a paper alleging that the Chinese government had conducted a series of internet hijacks.
Main One, which describes itself as a leading provider of telecom and network services for businesses in West Africa, said that it had investigated the matter and implemented new processes to prevent it from happening again.
Nigerian firm takes blame for routing Google traffic through China [Jane Lanhee Lee and Paresh Dave/Reuters]