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Chinese PC Filter against “unhealthy and vulgar” material is crashable

How to filter out perceived "unhealthy" material is running into a brick wall of not being inclusive for everyone. The so-called Chinese filter has "deep" data files with the sorts of search terms and key words the authorities use to block certain topics, including Falun Gong, the banned spiritual movement, and the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, gay issues, and HIV-related sites.

Experts Say Chinese Filter Would Make PCs Vulnerable

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By ANDREW JACOBS
Published: June 12, 2009

BEIJING — Filtering software that the government has mandated for all new computers in China is so technically flawed that outsiders can easily infiltrate a user’s machine to monitor Internet activity, steal personal data or plant destructive viruses, experts who have studied the program say.

“It contains serious vulnerabilities, which is especially worrisome given how widely the software will be adopted,” said J. Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan who examined the program. “What we found was only the tip of the iceberg.”

Known as Green Dam-Youth Escort, the software must be preinstalled on all personal computers sold in China by July 1. The government has said it will pay for the software for at least a year as part of its campaign against “unhealthy and vulgar” materialon the Internet.

"... a tool allowing users to protect themselves or their children against pornography on the Web, is really a thinly concealed attempt by the government to expand censorship."

“Their goal is to limit the access of information, not just pornography,” said Li Fangping, a rights lawyer in Beijing who is challenging the government directive. “I feel like as a citizen, my right to know has been violated.”

Software engineers who have examined Green Dam in recent days say it is designed to do more than filter out adult content. Deep inside the program, they say, are data files with the sorts of search terms and key words the authorities use to block certain topics, including Falun Gong, the banned spiritual movement, and the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square.

“To us, it shows that the government fears it is losing control over the flood of information on the Internet,”

The anger among Chinese Web users has been mounting since the new rules became public on Monday. Some bloggers have taken to calling Green Dam “filter tyrant” or “green damn.”

He said that in just a few hours, he and his students had infiltrated a Green Dam-loaded computer and forced it to crash. With little effort, he explained, any decent hacker could take over the user’s computer to mine personal data or harness it to other infected machines in a malevolent network known as a botnet.

“Whoever designed this program wasn’t very good,” he said. “And clearly the government never did its due diligence.”

Full:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/13/world/asia/13china.html?_r...