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Chinese Govt Spyware Puts Computers At Risk 110

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the big-brother-speaks-mandarin dept.
Ihmhi writes "China's mandatory 'Green Dam Youth Escort' web filter software apparently has a series of severe flaws. In addition to not working on Linux or MacOS, traffic between the software and its servers is unencrypted." I'm sure it only gets better after that.
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Chinese Govt Spyware Puts Computers At Risk

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:03AM (#28293087)

    In addition to not working on Linux or MacOS

    FFS, just run it in Wine!

  • Security 101 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sakdoctor (1087155) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:06AM (#28293133) Homepage

    Do not write any code that could intentionally be used to DDOS your ass.
    But seriously, this is great. It's going to be one hell of a show when it gets cracked.

    • When? As soon as, please.

      Besides, this doesn't look like you could only intentionally DDoS them, it can even happen that you may unintentionally do it. Maybe with the "help" of a trojan that just happens to infect your computer... you know those sneaky malware writers and their schemes, and sorry that I got infected, it must've been that I went to the wrong sites, but good comrades, you know where I've been and thus you know where I got it from. Strangely, I only visited good Chinese sites...

  • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:06AM (#28293149) Journal

    So does that mean that selling computers with Linux or OSX installed is illegal? Or will they get away with "installing" the software on those computers even though it can not function?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      Considering that the Chinese government has put a lot of time/effort into mandating Red Flag Linux for internet cafes, I would say that they "install" it and it doesn't function.
    • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:58AM (#28293965)
      It's mandated that it be sold with all new computers. It doesn't need to be installed, just supplied with the PC.

      Think of it as an AOL Free Trial CD. You remember, the free coaster they shipped.
      • by Thaelon (250687)

        I miss the days of the AOL floppy. Those were at least useful as more than coasters.

    • Wouldn't it be funny if this sparked a "MacOS to Windows hardware" hack that worked, spread like "kitten killer video [slashdot.org]" and then seeped back into the West and shut up the whiners (not to be confused with the Winers).

      Then, Chinese could buy a compliant windows machine, hack it to MacOS, and the DamWare wouldn't know. Or will they require that all machines stay on all the time, such that silence is a violation?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      This is just like the free gun-lock they provide when you buy a new firearm. It isn't required (in many places) but it is always given.

      They want the tool to be available for people that want to use it. Before everyone says OMG the Chinese are at it again, remember that the US Government (via the Childrens Internet Protection Act) mandates schools and libraries in the public K12 system install filters, and it will be really interesting how that applies to school-furnished laptops. It is the exact same lame
    • by nobodie (1555367)
      from china: it is not illegal to buy a computer with linux installed in China, it is impossible. they don't exist except in the hands of a few computer nerds and geeks who are being watched carefully. As for Macs, i (regretfully) have to encourage their use here for average computer users despite their price point which is 3X the pp of similarly powered windows PCs. the virus/malware situation here is insane and completely out of control. Most computers have had their security breached and run unprotected w
  • by wjh31 (1372867) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:08AM (#28293183) Homepage
    after all the slating given to china over censorship, it would be interesting to be able to browse from behind such a filter and see how much it would affect the surfing of a typical westoner
    • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:12AM (#28293239) Homepage

      Wouldn't it be more fun to disassemble the software, find the gaping flaws, and simultaneously take 300 million computer off the net?

      Epic lulz would have to be redefined from then on.

      • Wouldn't it be more fun to disassemble the software, find the gaping flaws, and simultaneously take 300 million computer off the net?

        Wouldn't it be more fun to use the gaping flaws to build a botnet, DDoS various targets and blame it on China?

        • by dstarfire (134200)

          No, as that would make you no better than the hackers over there who do that same sort of thing to American software which is "merely" forced on us by the vagaries of market and culture.

          Also, which targets would you knock down? If you attack their commercial or financial infrastructure, you're hurting American companies and citizens as nearly all our electronics and value (aka cheap) goods are made over there. The only useful target would be to attack government sites and somehow blame it on their native h

        • All I can see in both of your sentences is the word "gaping" and then the idea of a bot-net that denies you service AND makes every picture on your HDD and background goatse.
      • by microbee (682094)

        You don't need that software. You already got Windows.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      But filtering in China is done at a level independent of the computer. This adds another layer of "protection" and enforcement but isn't really the full filtering of the internet. Think of this like a porn blocker that blocks a few sites compared to the "Golden Shield" which blocks all references to anti-communist or different forms of communist ideals.
      • by quanticle (843097)

        That's true, but, it should give at least a taste of the experience a typical Chinese person encounters when he or she tries to browse the web. For that reason alone, it might be useful to try out (in a virtual machine, of course).

        • by PiSkyHi (1049584)
          My understanding is that it isn't supposed to do any filtering, just attempt to delete known methods for circumventing the great firewall.
    • by koxkoxkox (879667)

      Maybe this plugin for Firefox is what you want ? I didn't try it though ...

      http://chinachannel.hk/ [chinachannel.hk]

    • ...see how much it would affect the surfing of a typical westoner

      Really?! Is that all we're known for?!

  • The first result will be that more people will use Linux.
    • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:28AM (#28293507)
      No, not a good thing. You see in the authoritarian/communist society which is China, the government owns or has major influence in everything. So even with OSS projects that have a commercial vendor (like Red Hat) the government could convince the company to poison the source repos and the binary repos with modified versions. So in the end you have an authoritarian Linux system that even pirated Windows would be looked at by dissenters as "more free" because it doesn't run into the poisoning of OSS.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tattood (855883)
        First of all, I don't think that China could convince Red Hat, or any other commercial vendor to poison their own products to add things like this in. If anything, they would modify the files themselves, and then have their firewall/cache systems return their modified versions instead of the real version. Even if they were able to do that, there are dozens, if not hundreds of Linux distros out there. They cannot convince all, or even most of them to make these changes, so there will still be plenty of wa
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Darkness404 (1287218)

          First of all, I don't think that China could convince Red Hat, or any other commercial vendor to poison their own products to add things like this in

          Well, not Red Hat but what about Red Flag which is widely used in China and is mandated in some places for internet cafes. If they can convince the OEMs, convincing Chinese OS makers would be the next logical step, Linux is open and Red Flag already has a large userbase in China.

          Even if they were able to do that, there are dozens, if not hundreds of Linux distros out there. They cannot convince all, or even most of them to make these changes, so there will still be plenty of ways that Chinese people can get a hold of "un-tainted" Linux distributions.

          Censorship can never convince 100% of the population, but if you can get 95% and the 5% either are ordinary people who are scared to protest, high-ranking people who if they tell they loose their money, or unaccepted "radicals"

      • Use a source based distro (Gentoo, e.g.), keep up to date with reports of tampering and un-tamper your version.

        When you have the source, you are in control of your software. Whether you execute that control is up to you, though.

    • by westlake (615356)

      The first result will be that more people will use Linux.

      Does the Chinese parent [who can turn the filter off] object to limiting his kid's access to porn?

      If the answer is "No," then the take-up of Linux is likely to be less, not more.

      The geek has a remarkably parochial mind.

      Nothing outside the values of his own culture ever seems quite real.

  • by courteaudotbiz (1191083) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:10AM (#28293217) Homepage
    Hey, it's Chinese stuff for god's sake, did you expect some quality out of it?
  • Perhaps I am cynical, but do you think the Chinese government would require this software to be distributed with every new computer if there wasn't a backdoor to monitor citizens?

    • Do you think any government would require some kind of software to be distributed with every new computer if there wasn't a backdoor to monitor citizens?

      Ya know, snooping on your citizens ain't just for Commies anymore.

  • by Bander (2001) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:14AM (#28293289) Homepage

    I hardly consider the lack of Mac or Linux versions a "flaw". In fact, I consider that one of the few positive aspects of the software.

  • by BlueKitties (1541613) <bluekitties616@gmail.com> on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:19AM (#28293383)
    The "mandatory" software these computers will be shipped with is no different than a VChip inside of all modern American TVs; it's a feature people may use, but are allowed to uninstall at their sole discretion. Besides, this stuff runs on Windows, it's just one more straw on the pile of ways to hijack an unprotected computer. We also choose a tool that doesn't run on Linux because we're sick of typing 'sudo apt-get install wine' everytime we install a new Linux distro. This assures minimal typing for all Chinese Linux users.
    • The thing about the V-Chip is, its sorta open, there is no "reporting", and it can't be hijacked.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by BlueKitties (1541613)
        TVs, in general, cannot be hijacked (BoTVnet?) The mentioned security concerns are reasons to push for improvements to the software, not as an excuse to defame a government for trying to give parents more tools to protect their children. Again, if you do not wish to use this software, please feel free to uninstall it -- it's only there for those who want to use it.
        • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:27AM (#28294427)

          not as an excuse to defame a government for trying to give parents more tools to protect their children.

          "protect" them from what? From the evils of porn? This isn't 1995 here people, and its pretty hard to not know your going to a porn site today especially if you use a search engine to find sites. If your kid is searching for porn then obviously they aren't as "innocent" as you think they are. And whenever their censorship is under the guise of "protecting" the people from such evil ideas as human rights and alternate ideologies, it gets quite suspicious whenever they try to mandate more controls.

          Again, if you do not wish to use this software, please feel free to uninstall it -- it's only there for those who want to use it.

          Thats nice, but why install it in the first place? There are loads of internet "protection" filters out there, mandating the installation of one, especially from a government that constantly abuses its citizens should be cause of concern or alarm. Don't you think?

          • "protect" them from what? From the evils of porn? This isn't 1995 here people, and its pretty hard to not know your going to a porn site today especially if you use a search engine to find sites. If your kid is searching for porn then obviously they aren't as "innocent" as you think they are. And whenever their censorship is under the guise of "protecting" the people from such evil ideas as human rights and alternate ideologies, it gets quite suspicious whenever they try to mandate more controls.

            If you do not mind your children looking at pornographic material, then feel free to uninstall the software; you, however, are not the sole arbitor of parental guidance; different people and different cultures have their own views and ideologies on what children should and should not view. They are not telling you how to raise your children, they are helping others raise their children as they see fit. Again, this is not mandated for the parents, it is madated for the computer manufacturer.

            Thats nice, but why install it in the first place? There are loads of internet "protection" filters out there, mandating the installation of one, especially from a government that constantly abuses its citizens should be cause of concern or alarm. Don't you think?

            It's not cause fo

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Opportunist (166417)

          it's only there for those who want to use it.

          for now.

          Salami technique and boiling the frog ain't new for governments. For now it's "only humanitary" or "only to catch terrorists/pedophiles/boogieman_of_the_month", but when it's in place and we have "wide acceptance for it", why not use it for more? Or, in this case, make it mandatory since "so many thought it's a great thing" (read: didn't know about it and/or don't care enough to stink up a storm).

          • So I take it you and mister O'Reily agree on the liberal conspiracy to turn America into a communist regime? Today executive power to the Tzars, tomorrow the world! -- Erm, America; really though, if you can't keep your footing on a slippery slope then you have bigger issues than the bottom of the cliff. All you've done is argue that this should be carefully monitored, not thrown into place willy-nilly. The public is very very aware of what is going on, and the moment China slips in some naughty business, t
            • You talk as though the government is doing a good thing by serving its people. In reality, the government is the devil (el diablo) always making deals with his subjects.

              I'm sure from the bottom of your heart; you think you're doing a wonderful thing. Collectively with your piers however, it's no different than any *growing* corporation in that it always seeks power, control, and domination. The only difference between a corporate monopoly and a government is that one has a military while the other does not.

    • by forand (530402)
      Except for the part where the software causes your machine to be more accessible to attackers, yup other than that perfect analog.
    • *clap* *clap* *clap*

      Spoken like a true American politician! Member of the CCP? Hah, you can't fool me!

  • by oldspewey (1303305) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:19AM (#28293385)

    "We found a series of software flaws," explained Isaac Mao, a blogger and social entrepreneur in China

    ... when contacted later for further comment, it was discovered that Mao had been assigned to 18 years of reeducation through labour in the coal-mining provinces.

  • and i thought yeah i know they have a new album but this is ridiculous

  • Lately it's like all the countries of the world are engaged in an Olympic competition to see who can screw themselves up the most through acts of extreme stupidity and greed. What the fuck is wrong with people?

  • by David Gerard (12369) <{ku.oc.draregdivad} {ta} {todhsals}> on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:34AM (#28293593) Homepage
    "We have buttiduously canvbutted the industry [today.com], buttessed what is available and buttembled the finest selection of contractors chosen in a completely open manner for this buttignment. Butterting free speech is one thing, but a triparbreaste committee considers that that does not justify mere pbuttive breastillation at the expense of others. The filters will buttociatively clbuttify all communications and filter then, I can butture you, rebuttemble them with surpbutting exacbreastude in any quanbreasty. Consbreastuents can be rebuttured that a mulbreastude of industry compebreastors will butture quality and keep our clbuttrooms safe. Green Dam will not embarbutt us!"
  • by bugbeak (711163) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:34AM (#28293607)
    From the article: "One blogger posted a screenshot of the software purportedly blocking an attempt to visit a porn site using Microsoft's Internet Explorer. But, he said, there was no problem accessing the site using the Firefox web browser. "
  • data mining and wiretaps found still patriotastic and OKAY for your computer and facebook...film at 11.
  • China: home to the largest population and now also the largest botnet.
    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      China: home to the largest population and now also the largest botnet.

      The Chinese concentrate activity by areas. Geographically speaking then, where is the Village of the Spammed?

    • by Ant P. (974313)

      That assumes they weren't the largest botnet before now.

    • A huge step forwards. So far, they only controlled the largest botnets.

  • Elephant (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Excuse me, and no offense to the submitter of this story; But since when did the question begin to revolve around the security issues with the actual program the government uses to control your webhabits and not the actual attempt to control free speech?

    I know, we are geeks and we like to talk about this stuff, but let's not forget the elephant in the room here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417)

      Being "secure" would not make the whole thing any better, it would still be a huge blow against freedom of speech (despite the lack thereof in China anyway) and the freedom of the net. But it raises another concern that our govermnemts might take into account before pulling a similar crapstunt (I'm fairly sure they have something like this planned already. Freedom of speech ain't just a threat to governments in China...).

      Whenever you mandate some software to be installed, especially if this software is to o

  • Ok, so it's a pretty ham-handed first attempt. My question is: with all the US computer companies outsourcing to China, will my US PC or Apple eventually be affected? Perhaps we should stop buying US PCs made in China.
  • by Alzheimers (467217) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:54AM (#28293915)

    "As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth's final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master."

      Pravin Lal, Alpha Centauri

  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:03AM (#28294065)

    After spending a number of years living/working in China, I've come to the conclusion that the government just doesn't care if this new "feature" works or not. The goal isn't to really censor here, but to let people know that "the man" is watching. In China, that is enough to keep the vast majority of people in line. There are still tens (perhaps hundreds) of millions of people that have vivid memories of the Cultural Revolution. They know all too well what happens to the squeaky wheel and tailor their activities accordingly. Sad, but that's the way it is.

    • Is it much different in the so called 'free world'?

      How many people remember the Commie craze in the 50s (and the years after, to a lesser degree)? How many dare to speak their mind on "touchy" subjects when they know that mob justice isn't as much a thing of the past as we wish it to be? That's not the government? Well, technically right, but how often do you see religious fanatics (I'm not talking about the Muslim kind here, ok?) being charged for the damage they do to various places and people that they d

  • Government controlled botnet! A technological "Cultural Revolution" seems to be the obvious goal, under the guise of Greater Good and "thinking about the children".
  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:41AM (#28294689) Homepage

    Spyware Puts Computers At Risk

    I nominate this for the most awesome headline ever.

  • ...but is the Chinese government just creating their own personal, huge botnet to use in DDOS attacks in the CYBERWARS OF THE FUTURE?

  • by Macman408 (1308925) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @11:54AM (#28295947)

    ...it's the lack of encryption that really bothers me. After all, that could let some unknown party watch what I'm doing online!

  • It seems that China sent all of their super coders to participate in the NSA challenge, and they left the apprentices back at home writing the domestic software.
  • I don't want to sound like a troll, but considering all the oppressive crap we see coming out of China, it seems pretty petty to whine that their mandatory web filter software does not have a Linux version (or Mac)...Now if you want to talk about why China is so Microsoft-friendly, that one thing, but when someone installs a mandatory net nanny on a cheaply assembled PC and connects to a watered down approximation of the internet, where one thing internet users do best, "bitch about stuff", could possibly g
  • Microsoft must be so proud.
  • Easy to Beat (Score:3, Informative)

    by ironicsky (569792) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @01:32PM (#28297661) Journal

    Step 1: Install Virtual PC, or other VM Software
    Step 2: Install the Mandatory Software INSIDE the VM
    Step 3: Leave the VM running in the background and never touch it

The reason that every major university maintains a department of mathematics is that it's cheaper than institutionalizing all those people.

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