Monday, 13 October 2008

Chinese surveillance

There has been some creepy news about China's massive surveillance of the Chinese Skype VOIP network TOM-Skype. A researcher in Toronto (he calls himself an internet censorship explorer) published a report uncovering the surveillance practices of the Chinese government, which apparently required Skype's partner TOM to participate.
Key findings:
• The full text chat messages of TOM-Skype users, along with Skype users who have communicated with TOM-Skype users, are regularly scanned for sensitive keywords, and if present, the resulting data are uploaded and stored on servers in China.
• These text messages, along with millions of records containing personal information, are stored on insecure publicly-accessible web servers together with the encryption key required to decrypt the data.
• The captured messages contain specific keywords relating to sensitive political topics such as Taiwan independence, the Falun Gong, and political opposition to the Communist Party of China.
• The analysis suggests that the surveillance is not solely keyword-driven. Many of thec aptured messages contain words that are too common for extensive logging, suggesting that there may be criteria, such as specific usernames, that determine whether messages are captured by the system.

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