Sat, Jun 13, 2009 - Page 12 News List

China’s Green Dam filter vulnerable to attack: researchers

UNINSTALL NOW The University of Michigan report says China’s filter software could allow sites to steal private data or enlist machines in a botnet

REUTERS , BEIJING

A software filter mandated by the Chinese government leaves users vulnerable to malicious sites that might steal personal data or install code on the personal computer, researchers at the University of Michigan found.

China has mandated that the “Green Dam” software be pre-installed on all new computers made or shipped by July 1, saying that the move would protect children from pornography.

Many schools have already installed it. US industry associations representing computer manufacturers have asked China to reconsider the requirement based on concerns ranging from cyber-security and performance of the software to Internet freedom.

Web sites can exploit vulnerabilities in the software to take control of the computer, said a report by Scott Wolchok, Randy Yao and J. Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan.

“This could allow malicious sites to steal private data, send spam or enlist the computer in a botnet,” the report said. “In addition, we found vulnerabilities in the way Green Dam processes blacklist updates that could allow the software makers or others to install malicious code during the update process.”

Green Dam filters words and images, as well as Web addresses.

Once installed, the program automatically closes Microsoft browser Internet Explorer if the user tries to access a blacklisted site, including those belonging to banned spiritual group Falun Gong, said a user who is testing it.

Meanwhile, Chinese education departments are pressing ahead with installing the program, state media said.

About 4 million computers at all the 1,500-some primary and secondary schools in Shanghai will be equipped with Green Dam by the end of the month in order to block access to pornographic and vulgar software, the Xinhua news agency said yesterday.

About 48 percent of teenagers have visited porn Web sites, Xinhua said, citing a survey released by the Chinese Youth Research Center last month.

The report is at the www.cse.umich.edu/~jhalderm/pub/gd/.

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