I had reason to comment on the number of apparent French vistors The Hump was receiving, back in March. I invited any French readers to comment here, but it soon became clear why none ever did.
At the beginning of Holy Week, virtually all the French traffic on the blog disappeared overnight, making it clear that the levels that had been elevated since the beginning of the year were due to some kind of “cyber activity” rather than any genuine readership. In a legally-regulated country like France (unlike the criminal hackers of Russia whom we all know and love), it is clear that such a pattern, unlinked to any identifiable locations, must be a French government enterprise. To quote Baroness Orczy‘s Scarlet Pimpernel:
They seek him here,They seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
So I assumed that either there was a national holiday for bureaucratic spies over Easter, or else that they were all busy burning down Notre Dame for equally mysterious reasons.
Well, now it appears that espionage holidays in France are longer than I thought, because exactly one month after my French visitors vanished, they have all reappeared at the same level – which to give a sense of proportion is just a bit higher than my core reader-base in the United States. They look like staying here for the foreseeable future. Bonjour encore, mes camarades.
I remain intrigued about what is going on with all this, and other similar cyber espionage activity visible in the site analytics of my relatively small and scarcely secret blog. I may have mentioned before that when I set up a page for my book (incidentally, readers of God’s Good Earth may like to visit it there for value-added content) I had several bursts of high activity from nearly every city in China. Clearly it was the state’s doing (showing that our Prime Minister’s recent decision to use Huawei for our 5G network was embarrassingly crass), but why would they be interested in the page at all? Are they simply researching the security weaknesses of WordPress? But in that case, would not one discreet operator be sufficient to do the job? And I am not Facebook or Barclays Bank that they should want to steal user details.
But the Chinese have forgotten me now, it seems – the GGE page is now of interest mainly to Americans (the CIA?) and Ukrainians, of all people. Hi guys.
But like the Chinese my French would-be hackers on The Hump have no obvious reason to be there, still less to take a month off. They are clearly not the same outfit since, unlike the Chinese but like the Ukrainians, they hide their exact locations. I may have been covering socio-political topics more recently, but I’m scarcely a risk to public order, the EU, the Illuminati or even Parisian Marxists, and neither are any of my usual readers.
So why would it be that particular countries would test their cyber-skills on this little operation? Do any of you who have your own blogs experience the same phenomena? Do any IT-savvy readers have suggestions as to why it should happen? It’s not that I worry for my safety, or even for the blog, which has, I think, only let one spam comment through its defences since I started it. But it is rather intriguing, and there seems to be no information about the phenomenon on the Internet, that I can find.
I suppose the least that one can say is that there are countries out there with capacity, and to spare, for conducting surveillance on individual communications abroad. If they’re monitoring my blog, they’re certainly monitoring your smartphone. They don’t even conceal who they are (unless the Chinese are really the French and the French are really MI6). Whoever they are, it does nothing to convince me that having 5G devices attached to all our electronic gear will be a good idea.
Big Brother really is watching.