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Code in Chinese Surveillance App Analyzed

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Determining what China's app does on a smartphone.

Researchers at Ruhr-Universitt Bochum in Germany have analyzed an app that China insists visitors entering the country from Kyrgyzstan install on their phones.

Credit: Mareeen Meyer

Travelers entering China from Kyrgyzstan (on China’s western border) must install an app on their phones, and now researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) in Germany have analyzed how the app works.

The app scans the phone for about 73,000 specific files, and compiles a report for border officials that includes most recent phone activities, contacts, SMS, and social media accounts, among other types of information.

The researchers studied the actual app, as well as two of the app's helper programs that were available only in machine code format.

One of these other programs helps the app find out which Chinese social media apps are installed on the phone and which accounts are linked with them.

The second program scans the phone for specific files, using a list of 73,315 so-called checksums, which are typically used to verify data integrity.

Said RUB's Thorsten Holz, "The app is a surveillance tool used to scan mobile phones for specific information at the border, very fast and very efficiently."

From Ruhr-University Bochum
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Abstracts Copyright © 2019 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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