The New York Times reports on an ongoing controversy about censorship software that China seeks to preinstall on computers sold in the country.
The software, called Green Dam-Youth Escort, has come under attack by many computer users in China for both political and technical reasons. Critics say that although the Chinese government insists that the software will be used only to block access to pornography Web sites, the software’s actual use will be to block any site with content deemed politically objectionable, like the Tibet issue or the 1989 Tiananmen killings.
The government says all computers sold in China must have the software installed by July 1.
Some computer experts who have studied the software said last week that it was so flawed that it could allow hackers to monitor a user’s Internet activity, steal personal data or plant viruses. One expert, J. Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan, has posted on the Internet a report on Green Dam’s vulnerabilities.
Rather than agreeing to scrap the software altogether, the Chinese government has responded to the technical criticisms by ordering that the potential security breaches be eliminated. […]
Mr. Halderman said in an interview last week that it had only taken a few hours for him and his students to infiltrate a computer loaded with Green Dam and force it to crash. A skilled hacker could take over the computer to mine personal data or hitch it to other infected machines in a malevolent network known as a botnet, he added.