Jun 15 2009

Green Dam stops a lot more than just Pr0n

Published by at 6:44 am under Government,Privacy

Let’s put filtering on the every computer in the country because we want to protect our 14 year old boys from seeing any inappropriate images, because that’s always worked so well in the past!  Or at least that’s what the Chinese government is saying about their new piece of ‘security software’, Green Dam.  Like something as simple as a filtering software is going to stop a semi-intelligent teenager from finding pictures of women on the Internet?  And if it is somehow fairly effective, what’s to stop them from going out and finding a magazine or three?  Of course, all the talk about  ‘protecting our youth’ is just a smoke screen for having an excuse to put a program on the computer that stops any sort of activity that might possibly be considered subversive by the Chinese government. 

I find Green Dam interesting for two reasons.  The first is that this isn’t just a web traffic monitoring program; it monitors all behavior on the computer and will terminate any program that has ‘inappropriate information’ entered into it.  The example giving by Telecom Asia states that simply typing in ‘falundafa.org’ into Notepad is enough to get the program terminated.  Even if you’re not trying to get to the actual site, Green Dam is set up to stop you from having any sort of information including the URL in use on your computer.  I guess if you stretch your imagination a little bit, this might be something that’s needed to protect the youth of China from the corrupting influence of Falun Dafa.  Or if you’re cynical, it’s just another way the Chinese government is trying to make sure that anything even vaguely subversive never sees the light of day.

The other part I find interesting (and funny) is that it appears at least part of the code for Green Dam is completely stolen code.  Not that the company responsible for ‘creating’ Green Dam admits this as fact or even is willing to admit it as a possibility, but finding code and update instructions for Solid Oak’s product in Green Dam is pretty conclusive evidence.  Given that much of Asia has long held copyright issues to be someone elses problem, as long as it’s Asia that’s doing the stealing, this doesn’t really surprise me.  Unluckily, it doesn’t appear that any bugs in the original code have been fixed.

The especially disturbing part of Green Dam is that given the base of it’s code, it could easily be updated to monitor all traffic and activity on one computer or all of the computers that have it installed.  I have to assume that the Chinese government will have a mechanism already in place to update particular computers and begin monitoring and tracking everything that’s happening on the systems.  As if what they’re doing already wasn’t enough.

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4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Green Dam stops a lot more than just Pr0n”

  1. […] Security flaws have been confirmed in China’s recently-released censorware Green Dam. The patches cannot come soon enough as the filtering software has already been installed over 3.5 million times according to the Green Dam website. Green Dam is more than just regular internet filtering software, instead of blocking websites, email, and other internet communication, the software goes as far as to block ANY illegal phrases entered anywhere on the system. That includes typing an “illegal” phrase in a word processor or text editor, like Notepad for example. To read more about Green Dam check out this great article @ Network Security Blog […]

  2. […] Green Dam stops a lot more than just Pr0n – Network Security Blog […]

  3. Charles Liuon 20 Jun 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Um, “preinstall” in Chinese actually means “bundle”. Take this 6/12 ZDNet article citing WSJ for example:

    http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=19688

    The end users were never required to install or run Green Dam. As to what Green Dam will filter, it is configuable by the user – there’s a category of filters called “Illegal/Drug Content” parent can enable or disable.

    How this is twisted into censorhip by NYT and a handfull of bloggers is beyond me – anti-sinoism perhaps?

  4. Hal Jordanon 29 Jun 2009 at 9:42 am

    From http://www.cse.umich.edu/~jhalderm/pub/gd/

    “The image filter reportedly works by flagging images containing large areas of human
    skin tone, while making an exception for close-ups of faces.”

    What will stops chinese childrens from alien pornography, I means nude blue antarians models (the chicks with the funny antenas) from star trek, or DC Comics Tamaran orange skinned Starfire (I have seen wonderful fan-art nudity works of this character).

    Probably a smart move from chinese goverment to jump start the children creativity to find solutions to go around the restrictions. Millions of hormone-fueled adolescent minds cut out from their favorite nudity source will be powerful enough to crack the NSA strongest encryption codes.

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