I. China’s Mass Surveillance App Hacked; Code Reveals Specific Criteria For Illegal Oppression
by Tyler Durden
Fri, 05/03/2019 –
Human Rights Watch got their hands on an app used by Chinese authorities in the western Xinjiang region to surveil, track and categorize the entire local population – particularly the 13 million or so Turkic Muslims subject to heightened scrutiny, of which around one million are thought to live in cultural ‘reeducation’ camps.
By “reverse engineering” the code in the “Integrated Joint Operations Platform” (IJOP) app, HRW was able to identify the exact criteria authorities rely on to ‘maintain social order.’ Of note, IJOP is “central to a larger ecosystem of social monitoring and control in the region,” and similar to systems being deployed throughout the entire country.
The platform targets 36 types of people for data collection, from those who have “collected money or materials for mosques with enthusiasm,” to people who stop using smartphones.
[A]uthorities are collecting massive amounts of personal information—from the color of a person’s car to their height down to the precise centimeter—and feeding it into the IJOP central system, linking that data to the person’s national identification card number. Our analysis also shows that Xinjiang authorities consider many forms of lawful, everyday, non-violent behavior—such as “not socializing with neighbors, often avoiding using the front door”—as suspicious. The app also labels the use of 51 network tools as suspicious, including many Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and encrypted communication tools, such as WhatsApp and Viber. -Human Rights Watch
Another method of tracking is the “Four Associations”
The IJOP app suggests Xinjiang authorities track people’s personal relationships and consider broad categories of relationship problematic. One category of problematic relationships is called “Four Associations” (四关联), which the source code suggests refers to people who are “linked to the clues of cases” (关联案件线索), people “linked to those on the run” (关联在逃人员), people “linked to those abroad” (关联境外人员), and people “linked to those who are being especially watched” (关联关注人员). -HRW
*An extremely detailed look at the data collected and how the app works can be found in the actual report.
HRW notes that “Many—perhaps all—of the mass surveillance practices described in this report appear to be contrary to Chinese law, and also violate internationally guaranteed rights to privacy, the presumption of innocence, and freedom of association and movement. “Their impact on other rights, such as freedom of expression and religion, is profound,” according to the report.
Here’s what happens when ‘irregularities’ are detected:
When IJOP detects a deviation from normal parameters, such as when a person uses a phone not registered to them, or when they use more electricity than what would be considered “normal,” or when they travel to an unauthorized area without police permission, the system flags them as “micro-clues” which authorities use to gauge the level of suspicion a citizen should fall under.
A checkpoint in Turpan, Xinjiang. Some of Xinjiang’s checkpoints are equipped with special machines that, in addition to recognizing people through their ID cards or facial recognition, are also vacuuming up people’s identifying information from their electronic devices.
© 2018 Darren Byler
IJOP also monitors personal relationships – some of which are deemed inherently suspicious, such as relatives who have obtained new phone numbers or who maintain foreign links.
Chinese authorities justify the surveillance as a means to fight terrorism. To that end, IJOP checks for terrorist content and “violent audio-viusual content” when surveilling phones and software. It also flags “adherents of Wahhabism,” the ultra-conservative form of Islam accused of being a “source of global terrorism.”
A former Xinjiang resident told Human Rights Watch a week after he was released from arbitrary detention: “I was entering a mall, and an orange alarm went off.” The police came and took him to a police station. “I said to them, ‘I was in a detention center and you guys released me because I was innocent.’… The police told me, ‘Just don’t go to any public places.’… I said, ‘What do I do now? Just stay home?’ He said, ‘Yes, that’s better than this, right?’” -Human Rights Watch
The IJOP system was developed by a major-state owned military contractor – the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC). The app itself was developed by Hebei Far East Communication System Engineering Company (HBFEC), a company that, at the time of the app’s development, was fully owned by CETC.
CETC’s “three-dimensional portrait and integrated data doors” – special machines that are used in some of Xinjiang’s checkpoints to vacuum up people’s identifying information from their electronic devices. This is placed at the entrance to the Aq Mosque, in Urumqi, 2018.
Credit: Joanne Smith Finley
Meanwhile, under the broader “Strike Hard Campaign,” authorities in Xinjiang are also collecting “biometrics, including DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, and blood types of all residents in the region ages 12 to 65,” according to the report, which adds that “the authorities require residents to give voice samples when they apply for passports.”
The Strike Hard Campaign has shown complete disregard for the rights of Turkic Muslims to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. In Xinjiang, authorities have created a system that considers individuals suspicious based on broad and dubious criteria, and then generates lists of people to be evaluated by officials for detention. Official documents state that individuals “who ought to be taken, should be taken,” suggesting the goal is to maximize the number of people they find “untrustworthy” in detention. Such people are then subjected to police interrogation without basic procedural protections. They have no right to legal counsel, and some are subjected to torture and mistreatment, for which they have no effective redress, as we have documented in our September 2018 report. The result is Chinese authorities, bolstered by technology, arbitrarily and indefinitely detaining Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang en masse for actions and behavior that are not crimes under Chinese law.
Read the entire report from Human Rights Watch here.
II. China’s police now have laser rifles that can ‘set a whole person on fire’ up to a kilometre away
Stephen Chen, SCMP.com
Jul 2, 2018, 1:34 PM
Laser guns, such as this one from the Chengdu Hengan Police Equipment Manufacturing Company, are becoming increasingly accurate and powerful. Photo: Supplied
China has developed a new portable laser weapon that can zap a target from nearly a kilometre away, according to researchers involved in the project.
The ZKZM-500 laser assault rifle is classified as being “non-lethal” but produces an energy beam that cannot be seen by the naked eye but can pass through windows and cause the “instant carbonisation” of human skin and tissues.
Ten years ago its capabilities would have been the preserve of sci-fi films, but one laser weapons scientist said the new device is able to “burn through clothes in a split second … If the fabric is flammable, the whole person will be set on fire”.
Exterior design of the ZKZM-500 laser gun. Photo: Supplied
“The pain will be beyond endurance,” according to the researcher who had took part in the development and field testing of a prototype at the Xian Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shaanxi province.
The 15mm calibre weapon weighs three kilos (6.6lb), about the same as an AK-47, and has a range of 800 metres, or half a mile, and could be mounted on cars, boats and planes.
It is now ready for mass production and the first units are likely to be given to anti-terrorism squads in the Chinese Armed Police.
In the event of a hostage situation it could be used to fire through windows at targets and temporarily disable the kidnappers while other units move in to rescue their captives.
It could also be used in covert military operations. The beam is powerful enough to burn through a gas tank and ignite the fuel storage facility in a military airport.
Because the laser has been tuned to an invisible frequency, and it produces absolutely no sound, “nobody will know where the attack came from. It will look like an accident,” another researcher said. The scientists requested not to be named due to the sensitivity of the project.
Scientists in this field generally agree it would be inhumane to use more powerful weapons that could ‘carbonise’ a living person
The rifles will be powered by a rechargeable lithium battery pack similar to those found in smartphones. It can fire more than 1,000 “shots”, each lasting no more than two seconds.
The prototype was built by ZKZM Laser, a technology company owned by the institute in Xian. A company representative confirmed that the firm is now seeking a partner that has a weapons production licence or a partner in the security or defence industry to start large-scale production at a cost of 100,000 yuan (US$15,000) a unit.
Given their potential for misuse, the design and production of the devices will be tightly monitored and the only customers will be China’s military and police.
A technical document containing basic information about the weapon was released last month on the Public Service Platform for National Civil-Military Integration, a website run by the central government to facilitate collaboration between the military and commercial sectors.
Chengdu Hengan Police Equipment Manufacturing company, a major hardware supplier for Chinese law enforcement agencies, also released a laser “machine gun” last month.
The weapon has a range of 500 metres and it can fire several hundred shots per charge, according to the company’s product brochure.
Only a decade ago, such powerful laser weapons were something out of science fiction. In 2009 a US attempt to design a handheld laser gun resulted in something that “only works on nudists” because its beam was too weak to even penetrate a shirt.
But in 2015 Beijing upped the ante with a two billion-yuan fund to develop compact, powerful laser devices – an unprecedented budget for the field and one that triggered concerns in the US and other Western nations.
In recent years US forces operating in strategically important areas such as the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea have complained that they have been subjected to an increasing number of laser attacks from Chinese military bases or vessels that look like fishing boats.
Last month, the US government lodged a formal complaint that a “weapons-grade” laser device fired from a Chinese naval base in Djibouti had left two military pilots with minor eye injuries.
‘The pain will be beyond endurance.’ Picture: Getty Images
Wang Zhimin, associate researcher at the Research Centre for Laser Physics and Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, said technological improvements in recent years meant scientists were able to develop smaller and more powerful devices in the same way that mobile phone manufacturers had done.
“This is no longer science fiction. They are already a fact of life,” he said.
In the early days, due to technical limits, it was necessary to fire several beams and get them to converge on a target to cause any damage. They also needed a precise distance reading to have any chance of working.
Furthermore, the only devices available were slow, bulky and heavy, had a short range and required enormous supplies of power.
But the latest devices fire a single beam and can cause as much damage as large, truck-mounted laser cannons would have done.
But these developments increase the risk that the weapons could more easily fall into the hands of criminals and terrorists who could exploit their destructive capacity, for instance by conducting arson attacks without being detected.
Wang, who was not involved in the Xian project, warned that allowing these weapons to proliferate could be a threat to all countries.
There are no specific international protocols in place to regulate the development or use of this type of laser weapon.
The United Nations Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, initiated in 1980 and signed by over 100 nations, concentrates on earlier generation weapons and prohibits the use of those that could cause permanent loss of eyesight.
The document on Chinese government website classifies the ZKZM-500 as a “non-lethal weapon”, meaning they are deemed less likely to kill a living target than something explicitly designed to do so, such as a gun.
The lasers cannot kill a target with a single shot, but if fired at a person for long enough the weapons would start to burn a hole in their body, cutting through them like a surgical knife.
Researchers stress that scientists in this field generally agree it would be inhumane to use more powerful weapons that could “carbonise” a living person.
The US Navy has a laser too. Picture: US Navy photo by John F. Williams
Instead the document lays stress on the non-lethal applications of the technology.
For instance it says law enforcement could counter “illegal protests” by setting fire to banners from a long distance.
It also says protest leaders could be targeted by setting fire to their clothing or hair which, the document says, would mean they lose “the rhythms of their speech and powers of persuasion”.
But one Beijing police officer said he would prefer to stick to more traditional crowd-control methods such as tear gas, rubber bullets or electrical stun guns, such as tasers.
“The laser burn will leave a permanent scar,” he said. He said it would be a “horrid sight” that risked causing panic or transforming a peaceful protest into a riot.
This article first appeared at SCMP.com. Copyright 2018. Read the original article here. Follow SCMP on Twitter or Facebook.