As the National People’s Congress convenes in Beijing for the start of China’s “Two Conferences” political era, state media is pushing international propaganda on social media—including on platforms blocked by the “Firewall great” of China – to promote China’s “democratic system”. .”
– China Xinhua News (@XHNews) March 2, 2019
That democratic system apparently involves a lot of care to tap into the will of the people. While China’s development as a surveillance state has been well documented, the extent to which the Chinese leadership is using digital tools to shape the country’s political landscape and control Chinese citizens has grown even more. recently. That’s because authorities are targeting members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and other Chinese citizens’ online activities and social media profiles.
The little red app
Them China Media Project report that the CPP has ordered party members to download a new smartphone app called “Xi Study (Xue Xi) Strong Country” (学习强国)—an app that provides a library of articles and videos featuring the teachings of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Parties and government organizations are to establish mandatory party training sessions using the Xi Training-like training sessions of Mao’s “Little Red Book” whenever the party needs it.
The app also tracks how much time each member spends on each Xi-related activity. Points are awarded each time a task is completed, with bonus points awarded for completing “Xi Jinping Thought” articles or videos watched during “fun intervals,” or huoyue shiduan (电影时段) – Monday to Friday from 8:30pm to 10pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 9:30am to 10:30am and 3:30pm to 4:30pm.”
Social media posts indicate some government workplaces have set incredibly high quotas for the Xi Training spots workers must accumulate. A post on the Chinese social media service Douban reported that teachers at a school in a city had been told they had to receive 40 Xi Study points a day; considering that 1 point is given for a full 30 minutes of reading books and videos and 0.1 point is given for the completion of each piece of media, which can be given up to the entire waking time of a teacher our spare time. And because of interactive music tools, it is difficult to use it while doing anything else. (The post has been taken down, and an archive went offline as Ars was reporting this story.)
But you don’t have to be a member to track. While performing scans with the Shodan vulnerability detection engine, researchers at the GDI Foundation discovered components of a large social media surveillance platform accidentally exposed to the Internet.
Your voice is heard
February 22 China National Computer Emergency Response Team (CNCERT) alert warned that 486 MongoDB database servers out of approximately 25,000 such servers connected to the Internet have “information leakage risks.” Apparently, some of those MongoDB servers are part of a social media and messaging collection and processing system used by Chinese law enforcement and security personnel to monitor and investigate citizens’ communications.
The GDI Foundation, a non-profit organization based in the Netherlands, is in the process of building a Global CERT. The group tries to help secure the Internet by scanning for vulnerable programs and informing data owners of their exposure. The Chinese surveillance platform was picked up by a virus.
“To find the owner of the data, which is not always the owner of the server like the cloud provider,” Victor Gevers of the GDI Foundation told Ars, “we need to go into the data. In this case, we see that we can not find the owner , so we contacted the ISP. Within two hours, we noticed that they started securing the server as advised in the email.”
But looking at the data, it’s clear how quickly you’re using the system. The surveillance infrastructure, which consists of a large number of synchronized MongoDB servers, apparently collects social media profiles and instant messages from six different platforms shared by the community, according to Gevers. He added that the infrastructure intercepts approximately 364 million profiles with their private chat messages and file transfers every day.
The exposed databases are not only collecting data from social media accounts on services such as TenCent’s QQ and WeChat platforms, Alibaba Group’s WangWang, and YY video and streaming platform, but also processing after the collection. “These accounts are linked to a real ID/person,” Gevers wrote in a Twitter post about the data. “The data is then distributed across police stations for the city/region to separate operator databases with the same surveillance network name.”
“A surprising part”
According to the data that the GDI Foundation team looked at, legal officers in each region then manually investigated between 2,600 and 2,900 messages and profiles per day. Each day, they set up a new data table to track their progress.
“And the most amazing part is that this network synchronizes all this data to open MongoDBs in 18 locations,” Gevers noted.