Archive for China

WhatsApp May Be Blocked In China

Posted in Commentary with tags , on July 19, 2017 by itnerd

The New York Times is reporting that popular messaging service WhatsApp appears t be blocked in China:

The blocks against WhatsApp originated with the government, according to a person familiar with the situation who declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the disruption. Security experts also verified that the partial disruption in WhatsApp started with China’s internet filters.

“According to the analysis that we ran today on WhatsApp’s infrastructure, it seems that the Great Firewall is imposing censorship that selectively targets WhatsApp functionalities,” said Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Symbolic Software, a cryptography research start-up.

This isn’t trivial as WhatsApp has something in the area of 1.2 billion users worldwide. Thus this is going to get a lot of attention. The question is, will the Chinese government care about the blowback from this? We’ll have to watch and see.


Report Says China Not Cracking Down On VPNs…. Maybe

Posted in Commentary with tags on July 14, 2017 by itnerd

So, remember that story from earlier this week where I told you that China was going to crack down on VPN usage in the country. Well… There’s this report courtesy of The Paper  which thee folks over at Engadget spotted claims that China isn’t planning a blanket ban. In a statement, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information said that “authorized” VPNs such as domestic and international companies, won’t be affected. Whatever authorized means exactly.

So, all this report has done is made something that looked pretty black and white and turned it into grey. Lovely. If I were a betting man, I would bet on a VPN ban going into effect. Thus if you happen to be travelling to the country in 2018 and you need to use a VPN while you’re there, don’t plan on it working.


China Cracks Down On VPNs

Posted in Commentary with tags on July 11, 2017 by itnerd

It seems that the Chinese government is not cool with VPNs as it gives Chinese citizens access to services that may not be approved by the government such as Google, Twitter and Facebook or news websites like The New York Times. I say that because according to The Verge that VPNs are pretty much verboten, or at least will be:

Citing sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reports that the Chinese government ordered state-run telecoms to begin blocking VPNs by February 1st. Earlier this year, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced that all VPN services would need to obtain government approval, as part of a “cleanup” of unauthorized internet connections.

Many Chinese internet users use VPNs to privately access websites that are blocked under China’s so-called “Great Firewall,” including restricted news sites and social media services like Facebook and Twitter. It is unclear whether the VPN block would affect foreign corporations, many of which use VPNs to secure data and circumvent web filters.

So how does this affect VPN providers? How does this affect tourists and visiting business users that may need VPN access to their companies? I reached out for comment from NordVPN and got this from NordVPN’s CMO, Marty P. Kamden:

“NordVPN stands for freedom of speech and free access to Internet around the world. When it comes to China, nothing is ever certain, and that’s the approach we took from the get-go. It’s not yet clear how the Chinese government is going to implement the ban from the technical point of view. However, we at NordVPN will do everything within our power to enable our users to continue enjoying the Internet freedom.”

We’ll have to see how this plays out, but if you’re going to China, plan accordingly.

Threats Tied To China Have Far Reaching Effects For Android Smartphone Users

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 23, 2016 by itnerd

If you use an Android smartphone, you should read this story as it’s pretty scary. The Hacker News is reporting that there’s a backdoor that is potentially pre-installed on 700 million Android phones that sends your data to China:

Security researchers from Kryptowire discovered the alleged backdoor hidden in the firmware of many budget Android smartphones sold in the United States, which covertly gathers data on phone owners and sends it to a Chinese server without users knowing.

First reported on by the New York Times on Tuesday, the backdoored firmware software is developed by China-based company Shanghai AdUps Technology, which claims that its software runs updates for more than 700 Million devices worldwide.

That’s pretty bad. Here’s what it does:

Besides sniffing SMS message content, contact lists, call logs, location data and other personal user information and automatically sending them to AdUps every 72 hours, AdUps’ software also has the capability to remotely install and update applications on a smartphone.

The secret backdoor is said to be there intentionally and not accidently or due to a security flaw, although, according to the US authorities, at the moment it is unclear whether the data is being collected for advertising purposes or government surveillance.

Apparently the software has been supplied to BLU Products, ZTE and Huawei among others. BLU for one is removing the software and ZTE says that the software doesn’t exist on US smartphones. But this doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. For it’s part, AdUps has said that its software featured on the smartphone tested by the security firm was not intended to be included on smartphones in the United States market and was just designed to help Chinese phone manufacturers to monitor user behavior.


Now if you want to ensure that you’re not one of the potential 700 million Android users affected by this, there is a detection tool that has been created to sniff this backdoor out which you can get from here. But if you find it, you can’t disable or remove it. You’ll need whomever manufactured your phone to do that for you like BLU has. So if you find it, you’ll need to bug them for a fix.

However, I’m not done yet. There’s a second threat from China that affects Android users. In short, third-party firmware included with over 2.8 million Android smartphones allows attackers to compromise Over-the-Air (OTA) update operations and execute commands on the target’s phone with root privileges. Anubis Networks found the issue and ThreatPost has the details:

The problem stems from what researchers call an insecure implementation of an OTA mechanism used for updates associated with software made by Ragentek Group, a Chinese firm based in Pudong, Shanghai. According to researchers with Anubis Networks, who disclosed the issue last week, communications over the channel from the responsible binary are unencrypted, which opens the door for a man-in-the-middle attack.

“All transactions from the binary to the third-party endpoint occur over an unencrypted channel, which not only exposes user-specific information during these communications, but would allow an adversary to issue commands supported by the protocol. One of these commands allows for the execution of system commands,” said Dan Dahlberg and Tiago Pereira, researchers with Anubis Networks who on Thursday disclosed the vulnerability.

Researchers with the firm claim that 2.8 million devices – spread across 55 different device models – checked into a sinkhole tied to the binary.

CERT put out a warning on this and tied this issue to devices made by BLU, Infinix, DOOGEE, and LEAGOO among others. BLU says that a future firmware update will cure this, but no other company affected by this has commented on this. That does not inspire confidence.

Perhaps the way to avoid either of these threats is to not buy budget
Android smartphones? Or dare I say it, switch to iOS? Honestly, I am not 100% sure how one can avoid this otherwise.

Hackers Hit Health Insurer…. “Tens Of Millions” Of Records Stolen…. China Possibly Involved

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on February 6, 2015 by itnerd

If you’get your health insurance from Anthem who is one of the largest health insurers in the US, then you likely have something to worry about. According to The Wall Street Journal, they got hit by hackers on an epic scale:

Investigators are still determining the extent of the incursion, which was discovered last week, and Anthem said it is likely that “tens of millions” of records were stolen. The health insurer said the breach exposed names, birthdays, addresses and Social Security numbers but doesn’t appear to involve medical information or financial details such as credit-card or bank-account numbers, nor are there signs the data are being sold on the black market.

Anthem, which offers Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in California, New York and other states, said it doesn’t know precisely how many people may be affected. So far, it appears that the attack detected last week is the only breach of Anthem’s systems, and it isn’t yet clear how the hackers were able to obtain the identification information needed to access the database said Thomas Miller, the insurer’s chief information officer.

That’s just delightful. Affected customers will be contacted by Anthem. But what’s got my attention is this Bloomberg story that points the finger at China:

Technical details of the attack include “fingerprints” of a nation-state, according to two people familiar with the investigation, who said China is the early suspect.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation, according to Anthem, which has hired FireEye Inc., a Milpitas, California-based security company, to assist.

China has said in the past that it doesn’t conduct espionage through hacking. The Chinese embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

I personally would like to see proof of that as it’s really easy to point a finger at someone and say “they did it.” But let’s say that China is behind this. I’d like to know what the US government is doing to protect its citizens from state sponsored hacks like this? Assuming that they are doing anything at all of course.

Apple Products May Not Be Banned In China

Posted in Commentary with tags , on August 7, 2014 by itnerd

So, this story from yesterday where a Bloomberg report said that a list of Apple products had been banned in China just got interesting. is saying that Apple isn’t being banned in China:

But Bloomberg and/or its sources may have confused some facts of the matter, thereby drawing the wrong conclusions. A report from Chinese news site Caixin cites sources close to China’s Ministry of Finance who say that Apple simply neglected to apply to be included in the procurement list, which actually is geared toward energy-saving products, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Why Apple didn’t file an application or at least not the right application is unknown, though authorities are currently looking into the issue, AppleInsider said. Caixin’s take is that Apple may have simply failed to submit the necessary documents, including energy-saving product certification, which are required to make the list.

Now Bloomberg stands by its story, but one has to wonder what the truth is. When I get it, you’ll see it here.

RUMOR: China To Ban Government Purchases of Apple Hardware Amid Security Concerns

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on August 6, 2014 by itnerd

Frequent readers of this blog will know that Apple has had some security related issues with the Chinese recently. That may have  just increased if this report from Bloomberg is to be believed:

China’s government excluded Apple Inc.iPads and MacBook laptops from the list of products that can be bought with public money because of security concerns, according to government officials familiar with the matter.

Ten Apple products — including the iPad, iPad Mini, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro — were omitted from a final government procurement list distributed in July, according to officials who read it and asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The models were on a June version of the list drafted by the National Development and Reform Commission andMinistry of Finance, the officials said.

Now to be fair, Apple is the latest tech company to be banned from selling in China as they join, Symantec and Microsoft among others. Still, seeing as Apple is really trying to break into that market, this isn’t good for them.

I fully expect Apple to respond to this in some way. When they do, you’ll see it here.