The day China tried to spy on an Australian Prime Minister

DRAMATIC revelations of the CIA's eavesdropping TV sets will not have been a surprise for some Australian government officials.

They, and other sensible government travellers, have long been suspicious of the devices they encounter on overseas trips.

Almost exactly three years ago then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott visited Beijing for talks with Chinese President XI Jinping.

And an official in the Abbott party decided to take precautions after checking in to the allocated hotel room.

First step, the television set was unplugged, just in case.

Minutes later there was a knock on the door and the familiar alert: "Housekeeping."

According to sources on that trip, a no-nonsense hotel worker entered the room and with little preamble plugged the power back into the TV.

And then left.

The Australian decided to escalate matters.

Tony Abbott's team removed a television from his hotel room after growing suspicious.
Tony Abbott's team removed a television from his hotel room after growing suspicious. Trevor Veale

The TV set wasn't just unplugged, it was moved outside the room and into the hotel corridor.

Not long after there again was a knock on the door and the hotel worker reappeared, and reinstalled the television in the room.

The Australian again unplugged it, and that is where the standoff with the hotel worker remained.

In an era where everything from enhanced-computer car systems and the cheapest mobile phone can betray where you go, who you contact and what you say, government officials are always expecting high tech intrusions by hosts overseas.

Gifts of computers, phones or promotional USBs are dumped after a show of being gratefully received.

WikiLeaks revelations this week have taken those suspicions a step further up the technology chain. The previously secret documents included allegations the CIA could snoop on conversations via smartphones and smart TV microphones.

Not just spy agencies were concerned by these allegations. The big technology companies were also on the defensive over "vulnerability" in their devices..

Apple said it had started to examine misuse of its iPhone products, claiming they already had " the best data security available to consumers".

"And we're constantly working to keep it that way," it said.

"Our products and software are designed to quickly get security updates into the hands of our customers, with nearly 80 per cent of users running the latest version of our operating system.

"While our initial analysis indicates that many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS, we will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities."

Topics:  china politics spying tony abbott

News Corp Australia

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