Tags: Body & Mind, IT and Media, psychology, relationships, Science, sustainable development, technology
Children who spend five days away from their smartphones, televisions and other screens were substantially better at reading facial emotions afterwards, a new study has found.
The UCLA study suggests that children’s social skills are hurt by spending less and less time interacting face-to-face (Uhls et al., 2014).
Professor Patricia Greenfield, who co-authored the study, said:
“Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education, and not many are looking at the costs.
Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues — losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people — is one of the costs.
The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills.”
Tags: Body & Mind, cellphones, Children, environmental issues, health, IT and Media, Society, sustainable development, technology
By June Fakkert
NEW YORK—Scientists don’t all agree about how much electromagnetic radiation risks cellphones and other devices pose to fetuses and young children, but governments, health organizations, and insurance companies are advocating precautions.
The rapid development of a baby in the womb is a stunningly delicate process, and disruptions to it can have life-long repercussions.
“We know that exposures that occur during pregnancy can have life-long impact due to these window periods of vulnerability that occur as the brain grows and develops,” said Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein, an integrative pediatric neurologist board-certified in adult and child neurology and pediatrics. She spoke at a recent press conference for the BabySafe Wireless Project, an initiative to raise awareness about risks of electromagnetic exposure in young children.
Children have smaller brains, thinner skulls, softer brain tissue, and a higher number of rapidly dividing cells, which makes them more susceptible to damage from cellphone exposure than adults, Dr. Shetreat-Klein said.
“Disturbing scientific data continues to be revealed regarding the effects of cellphone radiation on developing brains.”
One such study was lead by Dr. Hugh Taylor, chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale University School of Medicine.
Researchers put cellphones in the cages of pregnant mice, turned some of the cellphones on continuously during the pregnancy, and kept others completely off. The young mice whose mothers were exposed to radiation from the activated cellphones were more hyperactive and had poorer memories than the young mice whose mothers lived with the powered-off cellphones.
“They were running around these cages bouncing off the walls, not a care in the world, something that in our eyes resembles attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children,” Taylor said at the press conference.
Electromagnetic Fields and Common Sense
Underlying the debate about the risks of electromagnetic radiation is the fact that electromagnetic fields can be natural—such as the build-up of ions in the air before a thunderstorm, as well as manmade—such as the energy of a microwave oven that boils your tea water in two to three minutes.
The frequency of an electromagnetic field determines its effect on the human body. So while we aren’t afraid of being exposed to pre-storm air, common sense (and manufacturer safety mechanisms) stop us from sticking our hands into an active microwave to see if our water is hot.
The frequency of the radiation emitted by cellphones, tablets, and Wi-Fi routers falls somewhere between storm air and microwaves, and their safety profile is a murky gray area that requires consumers to stay informed and aware, and to take precautions—even if the science isn’t conclusive.
Cellphone Safety Standards
A reason researchers aren’t likely to definitively prove that cellphone radiation harms children is that it would be unethical to conduct necessary studies. Such experiments would require test and control groups, and no parent would sign up their child to be in the test group, Dr. Devra Davis points out.
Davis is the president of Environmental Health Trust and award-winning author of “Disconnect: The Truth About Cellphone Radiation, What the Industry Is Doing to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family.”
According to Davis, cellphones were originally tested on full-grown men and have never been tested on women and children.
Cellphone safety standards have also not been updated in 17 years, since smartphones, tablets, and Wi-Fi became ubiquitous, and the sight of a radiation-emitting device in a child’s hand became common.
Now toy manufacturers produce plastic teething cases with colorful plastic bells and whistles that allow the youngest babies to get really close to their screens, reminding Davis of the baby suits that were once made with asbestos fibers.
The take-home message is one of precaution—that every parent can limit young children’s electromagnetic exposure.
You can keep yourself updated on Twitter with #knowyourexposure
Below is a summary of what some concerned parties say about radiation and exposure to children:
The United States government does not acknowledge known risk of using cellphones that have a specific absorption rate (SAR—the amount of radio frequency absorbed by the body) of 1.6 watts per kilogram (W/kg) or less.
The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland rated the Apple iPhone 4 at 1.07 W/kg and the Samsung SGH-E330 at 1.17 W/kg. Nokia and Motorola phones tested lower, according to the report.
The European Parliament recommends that schools and classrooms “give preference to wired Internet connections, and strictly regulate the use of mobile phones by schoolchildren on school premises.”
French law requires that all cellphones sold in the country have SAR clearly labeled as well as the recommendation that users limit cellphone exposure to their heads by using a headset. It also bans advertising cellphones to children under 14 years old and bans giving or selling any device specifically designed for children under 6 that emits radio frequency.
Israel has banned Wi-Fi in preschool and kindergarten classrooms and limited the Wi-Fi to an hour a day in first- to third-grade classrooms.
Belgium has banned the sale of mobile phones to children under 7.
The World Health Organization reports that so far “no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use”; however, it also cautions that “the electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
High priority on the World Health Organization’s research agenda is developing a better understanding of the effects of radiation in utero and on young children.
The German Academy of Pediatrics advises that parents limit children’s use of mobile phones.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said that children “are disproportionately impacted by all environmental exposures, including cellphone radiation,” in a letter last year urging the Federal Communications Commission to adopt radiation standards that protect children. The AAP also recommends no screen time for children under the age of 2.
In the past, Lloyds of London and Swiss Re, two major re-insurers, have both refused to cover cellphone companies for health-related lawsuits filed by cellphone users.
In 2010, Lloyds wrote that “EMF cases could be more complex than asbestos claims” and in its 2013 report on emerging risks, Swiss Re put the “unforeseen consequences of electromagnetic fields” in the highest impact category for 10 years down the road.
10 Ways to Reduce Your Wireless Exposure
BabySafeProject.org gives the following tips:
1. Avoid carrying your cellphone on your body (that is, in a pocket or bra).
2. Avoid holding any wireless device against your body when in use.
3. Use your cellphone on speaker setting or with an “air tube” headset.
4. Avoid using your wireless device in cars, trains, or elevators.
5. Avoid cordless phones, especially where you sleep.
6. Whenever possible, connect to the Internet with wired cables.
7. When using Wi-Fi, connect only to download, then disconnect.
8. Avoid prolonged or direct exposure to Wi-Fi routers.
9. Unplug your home Wi-Fi router when not in use (that is, at bedtime).
10. Sleep as far away from wireless utility meters (“smart” meters) as possible.
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Tags: CCP, censorship, China, human rights, IT and Media, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Lu Chen
Journalists in China have been banned from writing articles deemed “critical” about the government or even about companies without permission, according to a recent announcement from China’s propaganda authorities.
The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television—shortened to SAPPRFT—ian amalgam of the former State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) and the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP)—published a notice last week laying down the new rule, while going over eight cases of journalists and news companies that have strayed.
“Journalists and news stations are prohibited from doing critical reporting without permission from their work units, and they are prohibited from creating websites, channels, special editions, and print editions to publish critical reporting without authorization,” the notice said.
Violators could have their licenses to practice journalism, or in the case of a publisher, its publishing license, revoked, the notice said.
Six of the eight cases highlighted by propaganda authorities allegedly involved journalists who had attempted to extort the targets of their stories.
Such activities indeed take place in the recesses of China’s repressed news industry—though analysts are more apt to blame the communist authorities for their overbearing restrictions on reporters, rather than the moral turpitude of journalists themselves.
In one of the cases, Zhou Xiang, a reporter at the state-run Maoming Evening News in Guangdong Province, was sentenced to two years and three months in prison in March.
Zhou was accused of bribery after he took 26,000 yuan ($4,173) from 13 companies and individuals, whom he apparently threatened to run negative reports about if they didn’t pay up.
Such reports would have included claims that they polluted the environment, neglected industrial accidents, or were involved in illegal housing projects. The truth status of the charges was not clear from the reports. Apart from Zhou’s jail time, he has been barred from practicing journalism for the rest of his life.
But whatever the abuses of journalists—real or fabricated—Chinese public opinion has not taken kindly to a blanket prohibition on “negative” coverage.
“Extortion is extortion, and critical reporting is critical reporting! How could extortion lead to a ban over the other?” said Chinese lawyer Chang Xiaokun, based in Shandong Province, on Weibo, a popular social media website in China.
“The constitution says citizens have the freedom of speech, which includes freedom to criticize. Aren’t journalists also citizens? If criticism is not allowed, the nation is finished!” wrote an outraged Song Zude, a well-known commentator of the entertainment industry, on his Weibo page.
Yang Bo, a regular Internet user, wrote: “Journalists often use Weibo to expose corruption without the permission of their companies. Now they don’t dare do that any more, and corrupt officials will sleep well.”
Chinese of a more pessimistic bent were not surprised by the announcement, because suppression of the media has never changed under Party rule. The notification simply announces the status quo, these commentators said.
Even before the new prohibition, many Chinese journalists have been punished for reporting negative news on a variety of social issues. Xiang Nanfu, for instance, who was based in Beijing and wrote for the overseas media Boxun, was arrested last month on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”
Party media agencies said that Xiang published “fake” news that “defamed China” and “deceived Chinese people,” while Boxun was labeled a “reactionary website.”
But much of what Boxun reported about included the violation of human rights of petitioners and other disenfranchised groups in China.
Other reporters have been punished for simply doing their jobs. Before the 25th anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen Square massacre, Xin Jian, with the Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun, and Vivian Wu, a former Beijing-based reporter for the South China Morning Post, were detained after interviewing Pu Zhiqiang, a well-known human rights lawyer who is now also in custody and faces a potentially lengthy imprisonment.
Tags: CCP, cellphones, China, espionage, IT and Media, Society
Anyone looking for a cheap smartphone may get more than they bargained for. German security company G Data found that Chinese smartphones are being shipped with pre-installed spying software.
The Generic Star N9500 has a 5-inch screen, dual cameras, and a quad core processor. It also comes with the Uupay.D spyware program, pre-installed, which steals data from the phone and relays it back to a server in China.
“The possibilities with this spy program are almost limitless,” said Christian Geschkat, G Data’s product manager for mobile solutions, in a blog post.
With the spying software, the phone can retrieve your personal data, listen to your phone calls, get your online banking data, read your emails and text messages, and China’s hackers can remotely control your camera and microphone.
The smartphone is manufactured in China and sold on Amazon and eBay for around $159.99.
Aside from being a major invasion of privacy, the data gathered on the phone can be used by criminals for bank fraud, credit card fraud, and online scams.
The spying software is disguised as a Google Play service that runs in the background without the user’s knowledge. It can also quietly install new software without the user’s knowledge.
Geschkat noted they began researching the phone after one of their customers said it sprang an alarm on a computer security program.
They found the Uupay.D spying program in the phone’s firmware, the fundamental layer of code that interacts with the hardware. The Google Play icon it poses as cannot be disabled, nor can it be removed.
Geschkat said that the recipients of the stolen data, and how the data is used, are still unknowns.
By Lu Chen
Gao Yu, a well-known veteran Chinese journalist, who has been missing for half a month, was recently paraded onto China’s national state broadcaster and filmed sitting in a police station pleading guilt to crimes and asking for punishment from the state.
Gao is being accused of leaking state secrets to overseas media channels. The May 8 broadcast has concerned many observers, inside and outside China, with the methods taken by the authorities to stifle dissent.
Beijing police arrested the 70-year-old Gao on April 24, under the orders of a special task force established in Beijing after a “central confidential document” was published on an overseas website last August, according to the Party mouthpiece Xinhua.
Gao pleaded guilty to obtaining and passing on that secret document, an action she said she “deeply regrets” and for which she is “willing to accept legal punishment.” She was said to have obtained the document last June, typed it into her computer, and then emailed it overseas, the report said.
Gao was shown being led into a small, enclosed police room, wearing an orange prisoner vest where she made her confession. Her face was blurred out for some reason.
“I think what I did touched upon the law, and harmed the interests of the state,” she said, while nervously rubbing her hands together. “It was very wrong.” The police nod their heads sternly. “I sincerely accept the lesson and plead guilty,” she said.
No official reports have clarified what the leaked document was, but it bears a very close resemblance to the infamous “Document No. 9,” reported widely last year.
“Document No. 9,” published by the Hong Kong-based Ming Jing media group in August of last year, transmitted new ideological directives from the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department. It required Chinese universities to stay away from seven topics including universal values, press freedom, citizen rights, civil society, the Communist Party’s historical mistakes, judicial independence, and “the bourgeois elite.”
Observers of the Chinese political system saw the document, and the campaign that accompanied it, as historical regression.
No official reports have fully explained “Document No. 9,” but some local government websites appeared to discuss it in May of last year. Though the news items were later purged, a screenshot of a circular announcing that officials at the Rural Construction Committee of Chongqing City studied the document was preserved on the Internet.
Aside from the secretive nature of the document, political analysts see the arrest and punishment of Gao Yu as an open attack on the press in China. Bao Tong, a former policy adviser to the reformist Party leader Zhao Ziyang, ousted during the Tiananmen turmoil of 1989, said that there were a number of “bizarre things” about the accusations against Gao.
“If collecting and delivering information is guilty, why does journalism exist?” Bao Tong asked.
Gao has worked in the media industry in China since 1979, and has twice been sentenced to prison for her work. The first instance was on June 3, 1989, when she was arrested and detained for more than a year for her reporting on the student movement leading up to the massacre of June 3 and 4.
Then in October 1993, Gao was arrested again and sentenced six years in prison for “publishing state secrets.” In February 1999, she was given parole due to poor health. She has won a number of international journalism awards, including the Golden Pen of Freedom, Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation, the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, and others.
Some of Gao’s work has brought intense controversy outside China. In a column for Deutsche Welle’s online Chinese edition in January of this year, Gao wrote that a secretive security task force inside the Communist Party in 2012 “sent materials to Bloomberg News about every standing committee member” except two. Bloomberg later that year published revelations, purporting to be based on publicly available documents, about the wealth of the Xi Jinping family.
The use of forced confessions aired on television was widely used during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, and many Chinese intellectuals have compared the treatment of Gao Yu and others to those days. The method is used by the Party both to humiliate the individual in question, and also to warn others from committing the same acts.
Others targeted in a similar manner include Charles Xue, a Chinese-American entrepreneur and angel investor, known by the screen name of Xue Manzi. While in detention last September he was forced to confess to visiting prostitutes. Xue had gained a reputation for his sharp speech criticizing the Communist Party, and for the millions of online followers he had amassed. He called for free speech and democracy in China.
Chen Yongzhou, a reporter at a newspaper in Guangzhou, was also hauled onto China Central Television to admit to taking bribes for reporting “fake news” about alleged corruption at the state-owned construction equipment manufacturing enterprise Zoomlion. Before Chen had gone to trial he had been made to confess to his crimes on national television, an ordering of events that lawyers in China took exception to.
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By Lu Chen
The first public trial in China that would use a unique interpretation of the law to criminalize “rumors” began Friday in Beijing. Microblogger Qin Zhihui was accused of using the Internet to spread rumors, and was indicted by the state prosecutor for “defamation” and “harming society.”
The case of 30-year-old Qin, known by the online moniker “Qin Huohuo,” came to public attention last August when he was put in criminal detention by Beijing police for posting what the authorities said was “untruthful information” on social media.
Plain old truthfulness may not be the ultimate priority of Chinese communist authorities in the matter, though: Observers said that the trial is primarily another sign of the authorities’ determination to rid the Internet of speech about official corruption and other social ills.
Though the Communist Party is currently waging a high-profile campaign against corruption, the focus of propaganda is always on individual officials. Allowing ordinary citizens to freely voice their opinions about the corruption of the entire system could quickly become problematic and inconvenient for the authorities.
“The authorities are actually abusing their power to reach the goal of purging and rectifying the Internet,” said Wen Yunchao, a Chinese media researcher based in the United States, and formerly a visiting scholar at Columbia University.
The arrest of Qin last year took place as the regime announced plans to “fundamentally eradicate Internet rumors,” signaling a crackdown on social media and a tightening of the space online in which Chinese can speak freely about society.
A rule announced then said that someone who posts “fake information” that is viewed over 5,000 times or reposted over 500 times could face criminal charges, depending on the social impact.
The public prosecutor in Qin’s case said that Qin had posted more than 3,000 online rumors that had attracted a lot of attention and negative remarks against the government, “which seriously harmed society.”
An example given was Qin’s comments on the Ministry of Railways (which was later disbanded because of corruption) on the topic of compensation to victims of a severe rear-end train collision that took place on July 23, 2011.
Qin wrote that the Chinese regime gave a large compensation of 200 million yuan ($32 million) to foreign passengers in the accident, which the authorities said is not true. More than 12,000 netizens reposted this information within an hour, many tacking on a few words of their own resentment toward authorities.
A number of Qin’s other posts alleged corruption of well-known public figures. He charged, for example, that Yang Lan, a wealthy media entrepreneur, faked donations, and that Guo Meimei, a young lady who became famous for posting photographs as she posed alongside expensive sports cars, had used money embezzled from the Chinese Red Cross. Qin was in both cases said to have used “fake information” to damage the reputations of the two women.
But neither Yang Lan nor Guo Meimei joined a lawsuit against Qin. Instead, the procuratorate directly indicted him for “defamation” and “harming society.”
Whether what he wrote is true or false, the regime’s manner of handling it gave the unmistakable impression that a campaign to squelch free speech was afoot.
Chinese law says that “harming society” must consist of acts that are directly, rather than indirectly damaging, and that victims of defamation can only be natural persons, not governments.
“If Qin Huohuo lived in a democratic country, it’s obvious that he might face civil lawsuits, at the most, to give compensations and apologize,” Wen said. “But it would be impossible for a state judicial organization to prosecute someone like him.”
As in previous cases of prosecuting Internet users, Qin confessed his guilt. His apparent remorse and guilt was made a central focus on China Central Television and Xinhua, the state mouthpiece.
“It’s all my fault that I’m standing here today,” he said. “I hope my case can give others a warning not to do such stupid things as I’ve done,” he said in his court statement.
Qin also gave profuse thanks to society, the court, the police, lawyers, the media, his parents, and more. The compliant demeanor will likely serve to reduce his punishment. The sentence has not been handed down yet.
“Qin had no choice but to confess under such high pressure,” said Wen Yunchao. “The authorities also need Qin to have an attitude like that, to show the achievements of their Internet purge.”
Observers found it difficult not to draw an unwelcome contrast between Qin’s prosecution and the demonstrably false statements regularly made by the Chinese authorities themselves, none of which have yet been punished.
Internet user Yuyue Yunqi wrote: “Who’s going to put the Lanzhou government on trial for making rumors?” A recent news report showed that 20 times the regulated limit of Benzene, which causes cancer, has been found in the water in Lanzhou City, Gansu Province, after the local government announced that “the water meets state standards of safe drinking.”
Chinese authorities are known to conceal disease epidemics like bird flu, and play down the death tolls of natural or man-made disasters. No legal actions have been taken in those cases, netizens said.
Two widely forwarded complaints on the QQ microblog said: “The law only serves people with power,” and “The government can make rumors, but the people can’t.”
By Sarah Knapton
The number of Brits reporting to be sleep deprived has jumped 50 per cent with many more now using smartphones and computers before bed which can disrupt sleep, the University of Hertfordshire has found.
The number of sleep deprived Brits has risen by 50 per cent in a year as people increasingly use smartphones and computers before bed.
Nearly six in ten people in Britain now get seven hours of less sleep a night putting them at risk of cancer, diabetes and heart attacks, it has been warned.
Academics at the University of Hertfordshire found that 80 per cent of people are making it worse by using technology before sleeping which exposes them to disruptive blue light.
Blue light is present in morning light so late night gadget use can trick the body into speeding up the metabolism and making sleep more difficult.
By Ivan Pentchoukov
NEW YORK—Epoch Times staff reporters, photographers, and designers won 16 awards at the annual New York Press Association Conference held on April 4 and 5.
Six of the awards were for the first place, including top honors for overall excellence in photography, design, and advertising.
Epoch Times reporters Joshua Philipp and Zachary Stieber won second-place awards for best feature series and in-depth reporting respectively.
Philipp followed the trial and conviction of former city comptroller John Liu’s aides and Liu’s connection to the Chinese Communist Party. Stieber examined New York City’s subway system and compared it to those in major cities around the world.
“The awards are, of course, great as recognition from our peers in the industry, and as encouragement for everyone at Epoch Times. I would just point out that the awards are a natural outgrowth of a lot of sustained hard work during the past year,” said John Nania, Epoch Times editor-in-chief.
Nania continued: “We aren’t focused on winning awards per se, but we are focused on bringing a better and better product to our readers, and there is no thought of anyone resting on their laurels now. We will continue to push to bring our readers something better with every article, every photo, and every piece of design, every day.”
The New York Press Association represents more than 900 newspapers across the state.
The full list of awards, including links to winning entries:
Past Presidents’ Award for General Excellence
Overall Design Excellence (Richard L. Stein Award)
Judges said: “Stands out above the rest in design, printing, use of photography, creative typography, and overall design.”
Advertising Excellence (John J. Evans Award)
First Place (Tie)
Judges said: “We’ve never had a tie before—but we’re thrilled! The more winners, the better.”
“We’re very excited for our first-timer, The Epoch Times, and we’re very happy for our perennial winner, The Record-Review, which has won this award seven times—tying the record set by its sister paper, The Scarsdale Inquirer.”
Best Ad Campaign: First Place
Jens Almroth — Sushi Zen campaign:
Judges said: “Beautiful unique pictures. Great use of white space.”
Best Color Ad: First Place
Judges said: “Comprehensive feature—clean layout, great pastels, use of panels to separate messaging, simple yet representative icons, easy to read font selection, beautiful!”
Best House Ad: First Place
Judges said: “Love it!”
Best House Ad: Second Place
Judges said: “Clean, eye-catching!”
Best Small Ad: Second Place
Rob Counts — Dr. Roland
Judges said: “Very creative ad! Fantastic use of art and white space, and gets the message across instantly.”
Graphic Illustration: Honorable Mention
Seth Holehouse — Health Care Fumble
Judges said: “Some of the best visual elements are the simple ones. There are few major bells or whistles with this page-shaping image, but it ties together very well the concept of Obama’s health care planning and how the ‘play’ fell apart somewhere along the way.”
Best Special Section Cover: Honorable Mention
Judges said: “Very strong and classic special sections cover complimenting antique sibjet matter. Good color, excellent typography and striking layout.”
Overall Photographic Excellence: First Place
Judges said: “These issues represent first-rate design and graphics combined with photos that complement the effort. The Epoch Times sets a high standard for clean and informative presentation at a glance.
Special Sections / Niche Publications: Third Place
Judges said: “Extraordinary photography and design carries this complete, complex look at a year like no other.”
Spot News Photo: Honorable Mention
Samira Bouaou — Photo of Jenny Hou & lawyer, John Liu’s campaign treasurer
Judges said: “Good general news image witnessed by the photographer as the subjects are fully engaged in an environment that blends well with the right moment. Presentation on the pages is beautifully done as well.”
Best News or Feature Series: Second Place
Joshua Philipp — John Liu’s relationship to Chinese regime
- FBI Evidence Links John Liu to Chinese Front Groups; Inside Page
- John Liu Shuns Former Aide at Fujianese Meeting
- Exposing the Chinese Regime’s Influence in NYC
- In Backing Disgraced Treasurer, John Liu Sticks Close to Beijing
Judges said: “The staff not only looks into the allegations surrounding comptroller John Liu, bit it also exposes his links within Queens to nonprofits and those connections to Beijing. Exceptional reporting.”
In-Depth Reporting: Second Place
Zachary Stieber — Fare Game
Judges said: “Well written and well presented. The series raises important questions about a service that affects millions of people. Who else would help the reader with such knowledge? Nice job.”
Editorial Coverage of Election / Politics: Third Place
Kristen Meriwether — City Hall coverage
- How the Stars Aligned for Bill de Blasio
- Taking a Gamble Against Quinn; Inside Page
- Looking to Write the Code for Politicians; Inside Page
- Bloomberg’s Quest for a Healthy City; Inside Page
Judges said: “Great depth of coverage and great use of pulling reader into the newspaper.”
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By Epoch Times
A blogger from Shanxi Province in north-central China was recently arrested for warning on Weibo a twitter-like platform popular in China that forced organ harvesting has been occurring in the area in which he lives.
Mr. Han, 41 years old, is from Wenshui County. He used his cellphone to blog the information of several cases of people being killed for their organs recently in Wenshui and Qingxu counties.
The information had been posted 253 times when he was apprehended. When police arrested Mr. Han, they claimed the blog could cause people to panic.
In September China’s top judicial authorities issued new regulations according to which someone may be jailed if a blog post is forwarded more than 500 times. The broadly worded regulations criminalize “rumor mongering” in the name of preventing harm “to the social order or the national interests.”
In 2006, independent investigators outside of China reported that prisoners of conscience detained in China, particularly adherents of the spiritual practice of Falun Gong, were in effect being used as a live organ bank. When someone needing an organ presented him or herself, the needed organs would be harvested from a detainee, killing him or her.
Discussion of forced organ harvesting has been censored in China, but in recent years on scattered occasions China’s state-run media have reported instances of gangs engaging in a black market organ trade independent of the detention system.
Chinese netizens have been discussing the arrest of Mr. Han at great length, pointing out that according to the new regulations a blog post needed to be forwarded more than 500 times before an arrest could be made.
“Sadly, I could post something insignificant in the morning, and be arrested in the afternoon. The content was about highlighting corruption,” a netizen said.
“Was it [Han’s post about organ harvesting] really spreading rumors?” another netizen said. “Did it really result in disrupting public order, such as suspension of classes or production? Did it cause chaos or an event involving large group of people? How could you tell that locals were unsettled by the panic? Were there really 200 people who said they got frightened by the news?”
And another netizen said: “Because of “spreading rumors,” regardless of how many times a blog is forwarded, maintaining social stability is considered of the utmost importance. How much fear would this arrest instill in the hearts of the netizens?”
Recently efforts to stop illegal organ harvesting have increased around the world. On Dec. 9 Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting presented a petition calling for an end to forced organ harvesting in China to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that was signed by nearly 1.5 million people in 53 countries.
On Dec. 12, the European Union passed a resolution condemning forced organ harvesting in China, and legislation to curb the practice has recently been introduced in Canada and Australia.
Translated by Frank Fang. Written in English by Christine Ford.
Read the original Chinese report.
By Lu Chen
When shopping for groceries in a supermarket in Wuhan the other day, Mrs. Wu received for her change four one yuan notes, each with symbols on them that she had never seen before.
Underneath a black and white square of pixellated dots—which had evidently been stamped onto the note—were the words: “Scan and download software to break the Internet firewall.”
Wu took the bank notes to the Wuhan Evening News, and the story then went national. Even the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, reposted the article on its website.
In comments responding to the news articles, and in remarks made on Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging platform in China, users wrote about how they had themselves encountered notes with the symbols, called QR codes, on them.
QR codes can be scanned, like a barcode scanner in a supermarket, by mobile devices. They then automatically take the user to a website. In this case, it goes to a Google short link that redirects to an Amazon cloud link, where a software file may be downloaded.
QR codes are not unusual, nor are efforts to circumvent the Internet blockade, but Chinese Internet users were fascinated by the way the matter was appearing in media across China: it was an admission that there is an Internet firewall in China and that there are established ways to get around it.
Most curious of all, perhaps, was the identity of the individuals who likely stamped the QR codes onto the money. Though there is no way of definitively proving who is responsible in this case, putting messages on money is a tactic long used by practitioners of Falun Gong, a traditional spiritual practice that has been persecuted in mainland China since 1999.
Meeting a Need
Anyone, in fact, can download the QR codes from the website dongtaiwang.com, which belongs to Dynamic Internet Technology, a company that produces the Freegate circumvention software.
Typically, a website that hosted anti-censorship software would itself be censored. But Bill Xia, the president of Dynamic Internet Technology, said in a telephone interview that there are ways to disguise the URL at the time that its scanned, so that users can still access a page from which they can download the software to their smartphones. If the Chinese authorities wanted to block these links, they would probably have to cut off access to Amazon Web Services, where the files are stored. Blocking Amazon in China could have serious business ramifications.
He said that it only works on Android and PC operating systems at this stage.
“We found this usage of the QR codes interesting,” Xia said. “We did get input from China, user feedback that we should provide QR codes so they can distribute them in China,” he said. “It’s interesting to see that it’s actually happening and see the news get publicized.”
The reports in China did not indicate that practitioners of Falun Gong may have been behind the effort to stamp the notes. The report identified the code as an “advertisement,” and warned readers “never to try scan it.”
But netizens seemed unswayed. Many left their sentiments in the comments sections of popular websites. “I often see Falun Dafa words [printed on money],” said netizen yubos1. Another remarked: “Whoever has seen one yuan bills with words stamped on it will understand what the code is about.”
Another user, woaixuneng520, wrote: “I tried to scan it. Oh my! I can finally watch YouTube.”
Some were disappointed with the blurry photographs that the newspapers published of the bank notes with the codes on them. “Can’t the reporter take a clearer picture? I scanned my screen for so long,” one user said.
“It’s so useful,” wrote Qingwenwoding. “Only when you break through the firewall can you see China clearly.”
Those Who Stamp
Soon after the persecution of Falun Gong started in 1999, practitioners of the discipline began using a variety of nonviolent ways to inform the Chinese people about it. The regime has attempted to shut down independent information about both the practice and the persecution, while also spreading anti-Falun Gong propaganda to justify their actions. The use of QR codes on banknotes—or posted onto telephone poles on the street—is the latest development in this strategy.
Hu Ping, the chief editor of Beijing Spring, a pro-democracy magazine, said in a telephone interview: “We all know that Falun Gong has contributed a lot in developing circumvention software, which has helped break the Internet blockade. The recent reports, especially in official media, will obviously expand the profile of Falun Gong in China.”
Hu added that, given that the persecution of the practice was highly contentious even inside the Communist Party, and was one of the pet projects of the political foes of current leader Xi Jinping, the appearance of these news articles may be a kind of warning to that faction—which includes the recently troubled security czar Zhou Yongkang and former regime leader Jiang Zemin—not to attempt a political comeback.
It has been widely reported that American reporters in China are having problems getting their residency visas renewed and might soon be forced to leave the country. As more consumers of news pay more attention to China, China news has higher value.
Last year, the New York Times published an article about the wealth of then-Premier Wen Jiabao’s family. The Times article won a Pulitzer Prize. Seemingly a victory of sorts for Western media in China, the article actually serves as tangible evidence of political maneuvering inside China. It also serves as a cautionary tale for how a prominent media company can be oblivious to how it was used as a tool by a political force.
The United States has developed more ties of all kinds with China. Much of what Americans buy is made in China, and China is the single-largest holder of U.S. debt (other than the U.S. Treasury). What is happening in China matters a great deal to Americans.
Media in free nations is supposed to help us understand what is happening around the world. But China is a tough nut to crack. Even Westerners who have lived there for a long time may not understand what is happening there.
In response to the threats to kick out Western journalists, Western journalists have begun talking about the rights of the press. They are saying that China should respect the rights of the world’s press or, at least, China should give the same number of spots to American journalists as the United States does to Chinese journalists.
In talking about their rights, the journalists are approaching this China problem from a Western perspective. They can’t see the real reasons that China wants to kick U.S. reporters out now, at this particular moment in history.
Politics Not as Usual
Since Xi Jinping has become paramount leader, he has been like a captain trying to direct a giant ship—some people call it the “Titanic”—in a big storm. He has been trying hard to keep it from sinking. Any extra push from any direction could be fatal.
This year, Xi started an anti-corruption campaign. In the last 10 years, any such campaign has been a war for power that is disguised under the name of anti-corruption. Under former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) head Jiang Zemin’s rule, the CCP encouraged corruption. The system is set up so that no government can get anything done without corruption.
With this system, Jiang Zemin could do whatever he wanted to people. All levels of government officials were so corrupt that no one wanted any change that would wipe out their opportunity to get rich.
In the trial of disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai earlier this year, one can see how corruption charges are used. He was charged with corruption big enough to send him to jail, but small enough not to cause the Chinese people to feel strong resentment toward the CCP. The corruption charges were just a tool in the war for power.
Any Western journalists who participate in exposing corruption of high-level officials are unwitting participants in a high-stakes power struggle. And in doing so they are shooting in the dark.
The corruption information is so complex and hidden. It is not something a Western journalist can easily dig out, let alone understand. When a journalist does happen to get some information, it is not clear whether or not the information is a complete setup.
Last year, Bloomberg published an article on the wealth of Xi Jinping’s family. The New York Times article on Wen’s family wealth (mentioned above) was published at the exact time that Wen Jiabao and then-CCP head Hu Jintao were taking down Bo Xilai. Unfortunately, these two articles resulted from falling into traps set up by Zhou Yongkang’s camp, and the information was certainly fabricated.
Bo Xilai was allied with domestic security czar Zhou Yongkang. Through Zhou’s control of the Political and Legal Affairs Committee, they had power over all of the legal system, the public security system, and prisons and labor camps. They had built strong relations with leading websites inside China, and had also built relationships with media in the West.
Zhou and Bo had a complete plan to take the top power in China. They had long planned to defame Wen Jiabao, and to defame Xi Jinping, and their fabrications were well-prepared.
The New York Times article was published at exactly the time Zhou Yongkang wanted it, in exactly the way Zhou Yongkang wanted it. When Zhou was threatened by Bo’s arrest, the Times article caused trouble for Wen Jiabao and for the Hu Jintao–Wen Jiabao–Xi Jinping camp.
In China, media has always been a weapon controlled by top CCP officials. Zhou and Bo had systematically controlled the media, including the Internet. Google losing out to Baidu is part of the game, because Baidu is easier for them to manipulate.
The Bloomberg article on Xi and the NY Times article on Wen both had direct effects on the struggle for power at the top.
The Bloomberg article on Xi and the New York Times article on Wen both had direct effects on the struggle for power at the top.
The Western media should talk about their rights. They should demand the Chinese regime respect the press and they should report as aggressively as they can inside China. At the same time, Western journalists should learn how not to be used as instruments in China’s internal power struggles.
In general, when Western journalists talk to Chinese people in China and gather highly sensitive information, such as the wealth of the CCP’s leading families, it is highly possible their encounters and conversations were carefully set up.
The CCP is in a very fragile situation. Xi Jinping understands that. And he is trying hard to keep the “Titanic” afloat. If any additional compartment gets broken, the CCP ship will sink right away. He will have no difficulty in tossing the rights of Western press overboard if he thinks that will help the ship stay afloat a little longer.
No one’s rights in China are respected, and the Western media shouldn’t be surprised that, if they meddle in the struggle for power—whether intentionally or inadvertently, they will get tossed out.
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By Ma Youzhi, Epoch Times and Katy Mantyk
Paul Mooney is one of those genuine journalists of the old-school—he focuses on people, the stories they need to know, and the stories they have to tell. After covering China for 18 years and having won multiple awards for his work, he has been refused a visa to return as a reporter for Reuters.
Sitting down with the Epoch Times in Berkeley, California, Mooney opened up on why the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) Ministry of Foreign Affairs won’t let him into China. He also told some stories he reported on that will break your heart, the kind of stories the CCP doesn’t want people to hear. His gift for telling those stories is why he was not allowed back in the country.
“I focus a lot on human rights and social justice. I reported on Tibet, Xinjiang, and these are sensitive topics in China. I’m sure the government wasn’t happy with the reporting I did.”
He says it’s not so bad for him, though. The real heroes are the Chinese reporters. “I have a great amount of respect for the Chinese journalists trying to do those stories (blocked by the CCP). There’s a great risk for them, they’ll lose their jobs, and some have even gone to jail. I have no hope in the CCP, but I do in those reporters.”
Chinese Embassy Warns Him
The Chinese regime over the last year has tightened its already firm grip on media, and many foreign journalists like Mooney are getting squeezed out. The Reporters Without Borders’ latest analysis map of world freedom of the press has China labeled totally black.
During the eight-month wait to get his visa, Mooney was summoned to the Chinese Embassy in San Francisco for his interview. He was asked about his views on Tibet, the Dalai Lama, and high profile human rights lawyers. He answered frankly that he didn’t think they were a threat to China. His interviewer warned him that if he wanted the visa he would have to report more “objectively.” “It was obviously a threat,” Mooney said.
“As a journalist I was always objective, I never injected my own opinion in any of those stories. I reported the same way in China as I would have in the U.S. That’s something the Chinese government doesn’t understand. They say that the Western media has it in for China. But that’s not true.”
One issue Mooney has to face as a reporter on China is the accusations that he is anti-China. He hears the CCP say it, but also hears the notion coming from Westerners, too.
“I think they thought I was anti-China. But I am actually very pro-China. The people that I interviewed, they never once called me anti-China. If the communist party doesn’t like the truth, that’s their problem.
“I felt like I was giving a voice to the people who had none, and I’ve even stayed in touch with many of the people I reported on. I’ve helped people get medicine from the U.S., and people get doctors who need surgery. I stay in touch on Skype. These people know there’s no hope for them also, but the fact that somebody cares means a lot to them.”
A report in Business Insider pointed out that it was after the 2008 Beijing Olympics that the CCP quit being so accommodating to foreign journalists. With the pressure off to appease the rest of the world, Mooney said he’s never seen so many foreign reporters waiting for visas.
“If you look at the reporting from South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, from Indonesia, Malaysia, from Latin America, they all report the same problems. The Chinese [propaganda] succeeds by saying America is out to stop China, but really the U.S. government and U.S. citizens do so much for Chinese people,” Mooney said.
“Countless NGO’s go into China. And for the Chinese students we have open schools and campuses in the U.S. If the U.S. really wanted to keep China down they wouldn’t do these things. But you don’t see those things reported in the People’s Daily or China Daily, we always hear that America’s out to stop them, that kind of slant.”
Mooney doesn’t think the situation for journalists will improve in China without reciprocal pressure from foreign countries. The United States should take the same restrictive approach to giving Chinese reporters visas.
“I’d like the American government to say, OK, if you’re not approving visas for American journalists, we are going to stop approving visas for Chinese journalists. China has more that 700 correspondents in the United States. We don’t delay their visas; we don’t refuse them in most cases. We don’t harass or follow them, or have the police intimidate them, and we don’t beat them up.”
“Chinese correspondents have free rein in the U.S., and some of them are even spies. I guarantee that if we start denying visas, within two weeks they’ll start granting visas for American journalists again, but right now there are no repercussions for them.”
Mooney explained that the rest of the world is afraid to put pressure on China in case they lose business and trade opportunities, but what they don’t realize is that China needs the rest of the world just as badly, and so pressure will work.
Reporting Injustice is Pro-China
“One story I wrote about was kidnapped rural children. Young boys kidnapped and forced to work in black kilns—illegal brick kilns where they were kept like slaves.
“A few years ago a lot of young teenagers started disappearing. They came from Henan [Province] to Zhengzhou [Henan’s capital] looking for work. So I went out with a group of about nine parents for about a week, and stayed with these families while they drove around these out-of-the-way places looking for their kids, and it was incredibly sad. They cried all the time.”
Mooney said some Chinese reporters did briefly cover these stories, but it didn’t last long.
“The people I helped put hope in me, but in my experience there is very little reaction from government,” Mooney said. “One father told me the police had done nothing to help find the children.”
Mooney recounted one story about a boy who escaped a kiln, and went to the Labor Bureau for help, only to be sold back to the kiln by one of the officials, then sold again by the same official to another kiln, for 600 yuan (US$98).
“I also did stories on cancer villages. I went to one village in Hunan Province with a battery factory. A lot of people started getting sick, so the government sent in doctors to test them, when they found out 1,000 people were poisoned with cadmium in their blood, they stopped all testing.
“The factory didn’t have any equipment to deal with the waste. The battery industry is a heavy metal polluter. They bribed local environmental officials to give them certificates; they were working with local government and local gangs. They pumped the waste water into the village river.”
The water, rice, and produce were all contaminated.
“One little girl died from cadmium poisoning. The eighty-year old grandma fell to her knees crying, and her mother bent down and was crying too, when they looked up and saw me crying they were shocked for a moment, then they just started howling even louder. It was heartbreaking.”
The father spent 90,000 yuan (US$14,770) to try to save her. Everyone else in the village was too scared to even talk to Mooney about the situation.
“I reported on this story because I hoped the government would compensate these people.”
Mooney hoped his reporting could help Chinese people, and therefore sees himself as pro-China, but in the end, “It was writing about these things that got me into trouble.”
Mooney explained that there are about 400 cancer villages in southern China. The rivers are all polluted with heavy metals. He hasn’t seen the CCP do anything about it.
“They talk a lot, but no action. The government sides with the local business and local officials, so they’re making money. The Communist Party’s face is much more important than the well-being of the Chinese people. So in the end, it is the Chinese people who always pay the price.”
‘Mean and Ruthless’
Mooney started to get interested in China in the 70s. Like many Americans at the time, he was fascinated with Chinese communism. But all that changed. “As a human being, one cannot imagine or understand the behavior of the CCP.”
He realized that many Chinese might not like what he says. “I think a lot of people, Chinese and Western, are duped by the CCP propaganda news. A lot of it is so positive, you never get the real picture of China.”
Mooney points out that the communists are harming the Chinese far deeper than the Japanese ever did.
“360,000 kids got sick on melamine poisoned baby formula. The story was blocked because the communist party wouldn’t allow any negative news leading up to the Olympics to save face.”
Another example: “A Chinese reporter had her story about high-speed train safety blocked. A year later a big accident happened. This is a government that is willing to let the Chinese people get poisoned, injured, or killed rather than lose face.”
“There is going to be a huge problem with lung cancer due to all the severe pollution. So it looks like a modern society but it’s really just a façade.”
“The communist party is really mean and ruthless. Regarding all the problems in society, unless the CCP feels there is a serious threat to their authority, they won’t do anything. So I anticipate that things will get much, much worse before the government responds and takes any action on these issues. I feel no hope.”
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The widely respected Zhang Lifan one of those shut down
Recent news from China tells of a massive and an exemplary denial of freedom of speech on the Internet, with huge numbers having their accounts closed, including one widely respected commentator.
On Nov. 13, Beijing Youth Daily reported that more than 100,000 microblog accounts accused of violating “seven bottom lines” have been canceled by Sina Weibo.
The report also stated, “Sina Weibo [a popular microblog service similar to Twitter] will further improve the online reporting mechanism to curb Internet irregularities.”
Lu Wei, director of the China Internet Information Office, held a meeting on Aug. 10 with several network celebrities, including Jilian Hai, Xue Manzi, Chen Li, and Pan Shiyi (also known as Big Vs on Weibo). Lu claimed that a consensus on adhering to the “seven bottom lines” had been reached with the Big Vs—individuals who use their real names when they blog and attract millions of followers.
The “seven bottom lines” are meant to identify topics about which bloggers know the CCP will scrutinize what they write with special care: laws and regulations, the socialist system, national interests, legitimate interests of citizens, social public order, trends in morality, and the authenticity of information.
Revered Scholar Silenced
Coinciding with the Daily report, several of Zhang Lifan’s registered website accounts were closed.
The 63-year-old Zhang, a scholar of modern Chinese history and a newspaper columnist, is considered to be an Internet celebrity. He often published political articles on the Internet, urging the authorities to conduct political reform.
Zhang Lifan spoke with Voice of America about the Internet environment in China, freedom of speech, and the ruling that penalizes for spreading “rumors” a blogger whose comments are viewed or forwarded too many times.
“The Internet rules should not hinder freedom of speech,” Zhang said.
“The Internet should have rules, but they need to be reasonable and conform to the freedom of speech stipulated in the Constitution’s Article 35, rather than restricting it,” Zhang said.
He admits that there should be boundaries between freedom of speech and rumor or slander, but the boundaries are hard to define in China.
In Zhang’s view, the “two highs,” namely the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Supreme People’s Court in China, in setting forth Internet regulations, did not actually interpret the law, but took it upon themselves to make new law, overstepping the power of the National People’s Congress (NPC), and sparking controversy in legal circles.
Despite the contrived legal interpretation, Zhang and the other network celebrities were not deterred from talking.
He said: “In fact, we fear nothing. Now the netizens are mocking the interpretation. This has shown that the government’s laws and the ‘two highs’ are without any authority at all.”
Zhang’s main concern was who would become the first victim of the judicial interpretation, because when making the law, the CCP could have targeted some people. Therefore, once such a case occurs, it would typically be significant.
Zhang mentioned as an example the case of Li Zhuang, a lawyer in Chongqing who was prosecuted in 2011 on the suspicion of instigating men to fabricate testimony, because they were unwilling to cooperate with authorities in their “crackdown on gangs” campaign.
The ‘Two Highs’ Crack Down
In September, the “two highs” promulgated provisions to combat rumors spreading through the Internet, stipulating: “If the same defamatory information is clicked and viewed 5,000 times or more, or forwarded more than 500 times, it will be regarded as ‘serious’ and the rumormonger will be sentenced to three years imprisonment.”
Subsequently, in order to strengthen the Internet control, the CCP’s new leadership launched a campaign to occupy the new battlefield of public opinion, leading to the arrest of many Internet celebrities and opinion leaders.
Dong Liwen, who is a member/advisor of Taiwan Think Tank and familiar with China’s politics, told the media that after coming to power, Xi Jinping has shown no signs of loosening constraints on free speech. He believes the recent arrests demonstrate continued constraints in the Xi era, which are worse than under the previous leader.
Dong says Xi Jinping “stabilizes political power by all means.” But Dong cautions that Xi’s move toward further constraint doesn’t exclude the possibility of triggering a greater backlash against him by the people. Xi simply “walks on the cliff.”
Translation by Joseph Wu. Written in English by Arleen Richards.
Read the original Chinese article.
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This song wins 2013 “Best Song for Indie/Documentary Film” at Hollywood Music in Media Awards.
By Joshua Philipp
While inspecting shipments from China, Russian customs agents found something odd. Inside several of the kettles and irons they found WiFi chips and microprocessors. If the devices were plugged in, the chips would search for unsecured WiFi networks up to 650 feet away, then “call home” to grant access to cybercriminals.
While the unusual form of cybercrime took researchers by surprise, it was only the latest in an emerging threat of hacked electronics coming straight from the Chinese factories.
There is a long list of devices riddled with backdoors, infected with malware, or fitted with spying devices before leaving Chinese factories. These range from kettles to laptops, from USB keys to cameras, and from consumer software right up to military components.
In June 2011, Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily uncovered recording devices installed in all dual-plate Chinese-Hong Kong vehicles. They were labeled as “inspection and quarantine cards,” and were installed free of charge by China’s Shenzhen Inspection and Quarantine Bureau.
In June 2010, an auto-run virus in China-made memory cards in Olympus Stylus Tough cameras was infecting computers in Japan. The virus was uncovered just a week after an identical virus was in the memory cards of Samsung smartphones. Prior to that were viruses in devices including China-made TomTom GPS systems, and Insignia digital picture frames sold at major outlets, including Best Buy, Target, and Sam’s Club.
While the recently discovered chips in kettles and irons were among the more bizarre cases, they were also among the least sophisticated. They only targeted WiFi networks not protected with passwords. In Russia, where the devices were found, this would have been a threat. In the United States, where most networks are protected, it wouldn’t be much of a threat.
Yet, the concern is less about the chips themselves, and instead what they could mean for the future of cyberthreats.
“This is a generation beyond what we’ve seen before,” said Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor at cybersecurity company Sophos, regarding the spy kettles and irons.
Wisniewski said the chips were not very concerning, yet with a bit of work they could be. They could easily be programmed to bypass password protected networks, and being both small and inexpensive, the recent discovery could very well be only the tip of the iceberg.
“Who’s to say these things couldn’t be put into any device on anybody’s home network,” he said. “They could be in anything you plug in. Anything that gets power, this kind of thing can be hidden inside it.”
A Hidden Threat
Greg Schaffer stood before congress on July 8, 2011. At the time, Schaffer worked in the cybersecurity office of the Department of Homeland Security. He was asked whether there are risks of having electronics built overseas.
Schaffer tried avoiding the question. Yet when he was pressed to give a clear answer, Schaffer gave a short, yet grim response.
Schaffer said he knew of cases where foreign-made devices had been pre-installed with infected software or hardware, noting “We believe there is significant risk in the area of supply chain.”
“This is one of the most complicated and difficult challenges that we have,” he said.
Schaffer’s on-record admission to the problem was one of few. Yet, the problem of spying electronics coming out of China, in particular, is frequent and ongoing.
Some of the most common vulnerabilities are “backdoors” left in products. These can resemble programming errors left by the creators—the nature of which makes it difficult to prove whether the backdoors are intentional or unintentional.
Backdoors in Chinese routers are frequently exposed by security researcher and former NSA employee Craig Heffner. Within the last month, Heffner uncovered several backdoors in routers from Chinese manufacturer Tenda, which sells Medialink routers, as well routers from D-Link. D-Link is headquartered in Taiwan, but its routers are manufactured in Mainland China.
Heffner told We Live Security, the blog of cybersecurity company ESET, that a Nov. 10 backdoor in D-Link routers appears to have been left deliberately.
“You can access the Web interface without any authentication and view/change the device settings,” Heffner said, noting that the access code for the backdoor was found on a Russian cybercrime forum.
The most controversial routers come from Chinese telecom companies ZTE and Huawei. The House Intelligence Committee released a report in October 2012 warning American businesses to avoid the two companies due to security risks. Similar warnings against Huawei, in particular, have been upheld by governments around the world, including in Taiwan and Australia.
“China is known to be the major perpetrator of cyber espionage, and Huawei and ZTE failed to alleviate serious concerns throughout this important investigation,” said Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, in a press release. “American businesses should use other vendors.”
Huawei has launched a public relations campaign to fire back, yet independent research has only justified concerns. Just prior to the report from the House Intelligence Committee, in July 2012, security researchers at hacker conference Defcon uncovered critical, and extremely basic, vulnerabilities in Huawei routers.
“This stuff is distrusting,” Dan Kaminsky, a well-known security researcher, told International Data Group News Service. “If I were to teach someone from scratch how to write binary exploits, these routers would be what I’d demonstrate on.”
They also noted that, going with Huawei’s infamous lack of transparency, it had no security contact for reporting vulnerabilities.
According to Wisniewski, however, the nature of the threats—and of cybersecurity, in general—makes it difficult to prove guilt.
“The problem is there’s a scarcity of truth, and there is unlimited room for speculation,” Wisniewski said. “Only the person who wrote the code knows.”
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