from the own-your-mistakes dept.
Apple is taking flak for disputing some minor details of last week's bombshell report that, for at least two years, customers' iOS devices were vulnerable to a sting[sic] of zeroday exploits, at least some of which were actively exploited to install malware that stole location data, passwords, encryption keys, and a wealth of other highly sensitive data.
Google's Project Zero said the attacks were waged indiscriminately from a small collection of websites that "received thousands of visitors per week." One of the five exploit chains Project Zero researchers analyzed showed they "were likely written contemporaneously with their supported iOS versions." The researcher's conclusion: "This group had a capability against a fully patched iPhone for at least two years."
Earlier this week, researchers at security firm Volexity reported finding 11 websites serving the interests of Uyghur Muslims that the researchers believed were tied to the attacks Project Zero identified. Volexity's post was based in part on a report by TechCrunch citing unnamed people familiar with the attacks who said they were the work of [a] nation—likely China—designed to target the Uyghur community in the country's Xinjiang state.
[...]For a week, Apple said nothing about any of the reports. Then on Friday, it issued a statement that critics are characterizing as tone-deaf for its lack of sensitivity to human rights and an overfocus on minor points.
Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at UC Berkeley's International Computer Science Institute, summed up much of this criticism by tweeting: “The thing that bugs me most about Apple these days is that they are all-in on the Chinese market and, as such, refuse to say something like ‘A government intent on ethnic cleansing of a minority population conducted a mass hacking attack on our users.’"
[...]Apple had an opportunity to apologize to those who were hurt, thank the researchers who uncovered systemic flaws that caused the failure, and explain how it planned to do better in the future. It didn't do any of those things. Now, the company has distanced itself from the security community when it needs it most.
China has ramped up surveillance measures in Xinjiang, home to much of its Muslim minority population, according to reports from Radio Free Asia.
Authorities sent out a notice over a week ago instructing citizens to install a "surveillance app" on their phones, and are conducting spot checks in the region to ensure that residents have it.
The notice, written in Uyghur and Chinese, was sent by WeChat to residents in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital.
Android users were instructed to scan the QR code in order to install the Jingwang app that would, as authorities claimed, "automatically detect terrorist and illegal religious videos, images, e-books and electronic documents" stored in the phone. If illegal content was detected, users would be ordered to delete them.
Users who deleted, or did not install the app, would be detained for up to 10 days, according to social media users.
China has turned its western region of Xinjiang into a police state with few modern parallels, employing a combination of high-tech surveillance and enormous manpower to monitor and subdue the area's predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities. Now, the digital dragnet is expanding beyond Xinjiang's residents, ensnaring tourists, traders and other visitors — and digging deep into their smartphones.
A team of journalists from The New York Times and other publications examined a policing app used in the region, getting a rare look inside the intrusive technologies that China is deploying in the name of quelling Islamic radicalism and strengthening Communist Party rule in its Far West. The use of the app has not been previously reported.
China's border authorities routinely install the app on smartphones belonging to travelers who enter Xinjiang by land from Central Asia, according to several people interviewed by the journalists who crossed the border recently and requested anonymity to avoid government retaliation. Chinese officials also installed the app on the phone of one of the journalists during a recent border crossing. Visitors were required to turn over their devices to be allowed into Xinjiang. The app gathers personal data from phones, including text messages and contacts. It also checks whether devices are carrying pictures, videos, documents and audio files that match any of more than 73,000 items included on a list stored within the app's code.
On Tuesday, Don HO, the developer of Notepad++, a free GPL source code editor and notepad application for Microsoft Windows, released version 7.8.1, prompting a social media firestorm and a distributed denial of service attack. Notepad++ v7.8.1 was designated "the Free Uyghur edition," in reference to the predominantly Muslim ethnic group in western China that faces ongoing human rights violations and persecution at the hands of Beijing.
"The site notepad-plus-plus.org has suffered DDoS attack from 1230 to 1330 Paris time," HO said in an email to The Register. "I saw the [reduced] amount of visitors via Google analytics then the support of my host confirmed the attack. The DDoS attack has been stopped by an anti-DDoS service provided by our host [Cloudflare]."
[...] For expressing that sentiment, the project's website was DDoSed and its GitHub code repository has been flooded with angry comments in the Issues section – intended for people to report bugs or offer suggestions.
HO said Notepad++'s Tiananmen Square release didn't really attract much attention. The Charlie Hebdo release, however, got his site hacked. "The reaction of this time is more like 'Boycott Beijing 2008 OG' on the Notepad++ website, while Notepad++ was on SourceForge," he said, noting that SourceForge forum was similarly flooded by Chinese spammers in 2008.
Also at The Verge.
Related: China Forces its Muslim Minority to Install Spyware on Their Phones
Massive DNA Collection Campaign Continues in Xinjiang, China
China Installs Surveillance App on Smartphones of Visitors to Xinjiang Region
Apple Lashes Out After Google Reveals iPhone/iOS Vulnerabilities