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Google Recommends Product From a Chinese Company with Communist Party and Military Ties for its ‘Advanced Protection Program’

Matthew Robertson, August 23, 2018

 

“Our goal is to make sure that any user facing an increased risk of online attacks enrolls in the Advanced Protection Program.”  Dario Salice, Advanced Protection Product Manager at Google. 

 

 

Google recommends security keys

“The Feitian key wirelessly communicates with your smartphone to authenticate the login.”

 

Journalists and dissidents involved in Chinese affairs are accustomed to every so often receiving a pop-up banner on their Gmail from Google informing them that “state-sponsored attackers” may have been attempting to gain access to their accounts. To guard against such intrusions, Google suggests signing up for its Advanced Protection Program.

The Advanced Protection Program involves using a pair of security keys that can be purchased on Amazon. The problem? Google recommends a product — the Feitian MultiPass FIDO Security Key — manufactured in China, by a Chinese company that is part of an “IT-Military Alliance” with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Its chief of research and development of over 16 years is a former member of the PLA. And it does the vast majority of its business selling security hardware to Chinese state banks.

Google unveiled its Advanced Protection Program in October 2017 as reported by The New York Times. But the report did not explore the extensive relationships between the Chinese supplier, Beijing Feitian Chengxin Technology Co., Ltd., and the Chinese government.

FullSizeRender

Security keys like the Feitian MultiPass are an implementation of public key cryptography — the most well known version of which is PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) — in hardware form. They are a form of two-factor authentication that allow an individual with the key and the password to access an account; if either is missing, access is denied. The introduction of hardware to the security equation makes access safe from phishing, social engineering, and even attacks on cell phones that intercept temporary security keys sent via SMS.

It is unclear how feasible it may be for Chinese intelligence and military actors to install a backdoor in or otherwise compromise the hardware. But if the hardware manufacturer is mobbed up with one of the most sophisticated offensive cyber actors in the world, the “world’s worst abuser of internet freedom” according to Freedom House, and a country where a private company can never say no to government demand, the question arises: Can it be safe?

China Change examined security filings, advertisements, periodicals, and media reports to build a mosaic of the interlocking relationships between Chinese state organs and Feitian Chengxin (飞天诚信股份有限公司). The image that emerges does not appear encouraging for the computer security of Chinese dissidents and others who may be using the product.

Company founding

Feitian was set up by four friends, three of whom were 1992 computer science graduates of Northern Jiaotong University (now Beijing Jiaotong University 北京交通大学): among them Huang Yu (黄煜), the current chairman, Li Wei (李伟), the general manager, and Lu Zhou (陆舟) their chief engineer.[1] Han Xuefeng (韩雪峰), a middle-school friend of Huang Yu, was recruited from a computer job in the Ministry of Railways to form the company with them. The four continue to own the majority of the company’s shares.[2]

Feitian 1, four founders

The four founders of the company after it went public on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange on June 26, 2014. Huang Yu and Li Wei (in that order) are on the right, while Lu Zhou and Han Xuefeng stand on the left.

 

The company was founded in 1998 at the beginning of a technology and internet boom in China. It has since become “the No.1 supplier of user authentication and transaction security for China Online Banking,” according to its website, employing 850 staff and serving thousands of businesses in 100 countries.[3]

As Feitian grew, so too did its ties to official China. By 2015, the conference room in its main Beijing campus had a wall full of awards and certifications from Chinese government departments.[4]

Dominance in the state bank market

The foundation of Feitian’s business in China has been in providing security fobs to state banks.

Lucrative contracts with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (the country’s largest) and China Merchants Bank were its first major orders in 2003, though it sat lower down in the food chain at that point, only able to operate as the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for another brand.

Later the company was certified by the People’s Bank of China, China’s central bank,[5] and by 2005 was doing business with banks directly — including China CITIC Bank — not merely as an OEM.[6]

By 2014, 85% of the company’s revenue was coming from state banks, and Feitian was among the top three such vendors by revenue in the country.[7]

State information security a ‘precious business opportunity’

In 2003 the company joined the “IT-Military Alliance” (计算机世界科技拥军联盟) upon its founding. The event was hosted by the Network Infrastructure Department of the PLA’s General Armaments Department, along with other official organizations.

Only 12 companies formed the IT-Military Alliance. The founding ceremony was marketed as an opportunity for industry to present tribute to the PLA in celebration of the 76th year since its founding. Feitian notes on its website that “the head of the General Armaments Department expressed a deep interest in Feitian’s products,” and that “Feitian will inevitably provide earnest service to the giant military market under the grand strategy of ‘civil-military integration,’ and thus do our bit to help the construction of the nation’s informatized defensive infrastructure!”[8]

Feitian 2, Alliance

“In Earnest Celebration of the 76th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Liberation Army — Ceremony for the Founding of the IT-Military Alliance.” The event was part of Jiang Zemin’s push for “informatization” (信息化) of the PLA.

 

Though it is unclear when in 2003 Feitian won its first contract with ICBC, it is difficult not to imagine that its involvement with the PLA — irresistible though it may have been — helped in forging such relationships. Its approval and verification by the State Cryptography Administration in 2004 was also flagged as a “key milestone.”[9]

Already successful with banks in 2003, Feitian’s chief of research and development told the media in 2003 that the next areas of growth would be military and departments and offices for classified information (机要部门).[10]

The logic was obvious to Feitian executives: “As government procurement strengthens and priority is given to domestic products, our country’s state information security will be pushed forward considerably, and this is a precious business opportunity for the vast field of security companies.”[11]

It is difficult to find public information on the extent of that line of business. The company’s technology has however been certified as “military-use information security products.”[12]

In 2006, the company was awarded over one million yuan from a fund for new technology set up by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. “This is the country’s strong affirmation of Feitian Co., and a thorough recognition of its technological prowess, project management capacity, and reputation,” said an announcement in the scientific press at the time.[13] Later in the year the company’s tech was declared “A New Important National Product” (国家重点新产品) by a number of government departments.[14]

From 2007 onwards, Feitian was selected to provide a smart card identity recognition system (智能网络身份认证系统) as part of the Torch Program,[15] China’s national plan to develop its high-technology industrial base.[16]

The company is part of a Smartcard Intellectual Property Alliance, a kind of government-industry group associated with the Beijing Municipal Intellectual Property Rights Bureau. A member of the Bureau’s Party Group (党组) presided over the alliance’s founding ceremony, on the basis that “the smartcard security industry concerns national information security and is an area of high-technology strongly supported by Beijing.”[17]

Feitian 3, keys

An example of one of Feitian’s security key products sold to banks in China, the ePass2000Auto LE.

Since 2009 Feitian has been listed in numerous databases maintained by the Ministry of Public Security among the accepted providers of identity recognition systems.[18] The list contains only Chinese companies trusted by the state, among them Huawei.

The company has also be the recipient of praise from former vice minister of Public Security Chen Zhimin (陈智敏) and other public and information security cadres, who are said to have expressed “excellent regard” for the company’s security management, and identification security.[19]

Feitian 4, Yu Huazhang

Yu Huazhang, the former PLA engineer and R&D chief at Feitian. (Source: 胡滢. 锁住的商机. 中国电子商务杂志. 2003(8). 56-58)

Perhaps most notably, since 2002 its research and development chief has been Yu Huazhang (于华章), a graduate of the PLA’s Information Engineering University and for the first seven years of his career an assistant researcher in the PLA’s General Staff Department. In April 2010, he became a 1% shareholder in the company. He is also a vice general manager.

The company and its key engineers won third prize (among many others) in the 2014 Beijing Municipal Technology Awards for “Application and operating system research and development for a chip in a visible-button smart security card” (可视按键型智能密码钥匙片内操作系统研发与应用) which sounds similar to the product being vended for Google’s enhanced security.[20]

Then there are the numerous exhibitions of official fealty on Feitian’s website, each not particularly significant taken on its own, but as a collection making clear that the company knows which way the wind blows. As a matter of routine, Feitian engages in activities like the following:

  • Hosting workshops for Chinese academicians to explicate the “spirit” of a series of Xi Jinping’s important speeches in order to “implement and carry out” the political directives resultant from the 18th Party Congress;[21]
  • Hosting tours of officials studying at the Party School;[22]
  • Advertising its award for “important contributions” to information security given by the Party-Government Password Science & Technology Progress Award Assessment Committee (yes).[23]

The company has been relatively profitable. Within its first year or so it had booked five million yuan in revenue, at gross profit of nearly 50%; by 2014 when it went public on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange its revenues were just over one billion yuan, 250 million yuan profit. (Its stock has been cut nearly in half since April 2018, however, due to “an inexplicable explosion in all manner of costs.”) In 2003 it occupied around 50% of the market for USB security keys, a dominance that it has likely grown since.[24]

Feitian 5, group photo with pla

Li Jinai (fifth from left), the former secretary of the PLA General Armaments Department and a member of the Central Military Commission, stands next to Feitian’s chairman Huang Yu (fifth from right), at a ceremony marking an alliance between the PLA and the IT industry in 2003.

 

The company has sought to expand overseas for at least a decade, in 2007 noting on its website that “Feitian’s ePass identification authentication products have been adopted by governments, banks, and others around the world. We have won a strong reputation as an independent Chinese company with our own intellectual property striding onto the world stage in information security.”

It is difficult to gather data on the extent of those expansion efforts — though the recommendation by Google speaks well to at least a partial success.

But does this compromise user security?

It goes without saying that almost everything we have documented above is simply part and parcel of Chinese companies doing business in China — in particular in a sensitive sector like information and network security, and especially when doing large business with state banks. When the PLA invites your company to join in the “earnest celebration” of its anniversary, present gifts, and join its industrial “alliance,” you don’t respectfully decline.

The same would obtain if the company were ever approached by military or civilian intelligence and instructed to install backdoors in its security fobs, according to Tom Uren, a visiting fellow in the International Cyber Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

“Companies in China aren’t able to refuse to engage in intelligence activities. This is laid out very clearly in Article 7 of China’s new 2017 National Intelligence Law,” Uren wrote in an email.

The law states: “All organizations and citizens shall, in accordance with the law, support, cooperate with, and collaborate in national intelligence work, and guard the secrecy of national intelligence work they are aware of. The state will protect individuals and organizations that support, cooperate with, and collaborate in national intelligence work.”

 

Feitian 6, RSA conference

Feitian’s chairman Huang Yu sits at his desk. The text says: “Feitian Chengxin: The Chinese Face That Appeared Eight Times at the RSA Conference.” (Source: 李玲玲. 飞天诚信:八次现身RSA大会的中国面孔. 软件世界杂志 2011(4). 60-61.

 

A Chinese information security business has no choice in the matter. The question then becomes how feasible it is for the security device to be weakened or tampered with. At the very least, there is an obvious opportunity at the level of firmware — the software layer coded into a device that controls its hardware — for an adversary to create mischief.

“The firmware matters a lot, and that looks like why Google is planning to replace the firmware on their whitelabeled Feitian keys,” says Dan Guido, CEO of Trail of Bits, a New York-based computer security firm.

This refers to Google’s ‘Titan’ security keys, which appear to be Feitian hardware with Google’s own firmware. On its Advanced Protection Program page, however, Google links users directly to Feitian’s own website, not to the Titan keys with Google’s own firmware.

 

“Attackers will tend to use the easiest method to achieve their goals,” says Tom Uren. “Is compromising the Feitian security key supply chain the easiest way? Maybe. Phishing is certainly the easiest/cheapest way to hack data currently and security keys significantly reduce its effectiveness. It will certainly be an avenue that Chinese intelligence would have to consider if security keys are widely used by people of interest to them.”

The means by which attackers could gain unauthorized access through the keys are potentially numerous, including complex methods of introducing flaws in the cryptography or its implementation. Markus Vervier, a computer security researcher, has documented vulnerabilities in some implementations of U2F (universal two factor authentication). His work was not in reference to Feitian.

Yubico, a Swedish-founded company and Google’s other suggested vendor of U2F products, seems to have previously made a veiled suggestion as to the potential vulnerability of its competitor. CEO Stina Ehrensvard wrote on the company’s blog: “Yubico strongly believes there are security and privacy benefits for our customers by manufacturing and programming our products in the USA and Sweden.” The company declined to comment for this article.

Google did not respond to a request for comment. The FIDO Alliance, an organization that certifies hardware (and which has certified Feitian) for implementing the security protocols used in U2F products, did not respond to a request for comment. Feitian did not respond to a request for comment.

One security researcher refused to comment because it’s “obvious” that backdoors could be put into hardware at the manufacturing stage, and his team didn’t want to single out any particular country.

Perhaps the simplest test of the security of the Feitian keys is a gut check: would security experts themselves use them?

“No,” wrote Tom Uren. “I use Yubico keys.”

 

 

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[1] 亲历者说:“小乌鸡”如何变成“金凤凰” 中关村股权交易服务集团有限公司组织编写. 创客时代 亲历者讲创业. 2016

[2] http://www.csrc.gov.cn/pub/zjhpublic/cyb/cybypl/201207/P020120702612306569933.pdf

[3] “About.” n.d. Feitian Technologies Co. Accessed August 17, 2018. https://www.ftsafe.com/about.

[4] 祝惠春. 2015. “飞天诚信大‘起底’ 看它如何变成创业板金凤凰-一卡通世界.” 经济日报. June 3, 2015. https://web.archive.org/web/20180817204339/http://news.yktworld.com/201506/201506031013120738.html.

[5] https://www.ftsafe.com/about/History

[6] 祝惠春 (2015)

[7] 赵阳戈. 2014. “飞天诚信:市场占有率跻身行业前三.” 每经网. June 18, 2014. http://www.nbd.com.cn/articles/2014-06-18/842169.html; 韦伟. 2014. “飞天诚信业绩依赖银行 穿‘马甲’投标涉不正当竞争.” 财经频道, 中国经济网; May 15, 2014. http://finance.ce.cn/rolling/201405/15/t20140515_2816496.shtml.

[8] 小晨. 八一前夕 科技拥军——计算机世界科技拥军捐赠仪式暨科技拥军联盟成立大会隆重举行. 微电脑世界,2003,(15).

[9] 飞天诚信喜获国密办两项资质_商用密码生产定点和销售许可. 电脑编程技巧与维护 2004(6).

[10] 胡滢. 锁住的商机. 中国电子商务杂志. 2003(8). 58

[11] Ibid.

[12] http://download.ftsafe.com/files/reader/FT-QUALIFICATION.pdf

[13] 飞天诚信荣获科技部技术创新基金支持. 电脑编程技巧与维护 2006(6).

[14] 崔光耀. 行业 标杆 如何竖起 — 飞天营销总监徐东谈国内业务. 信息安全与通信保密 2007(7). 34-35

[15] 2007: http://www.chinatorch.gov.cn/2/c100933/201402/72b304fcfb264910977d831759d23d9e.shtml; 2009: http://www.chinatorch.gov.cn/2/dddtt/200908/63f169a86da8411d804c555cb53767d9.shtml; 2011: http://www.most.gov.cn/tztg/201110/W020111013381125627477.pdf; 2016: http://www.chinatorch.gov.cn/2/c100924/201611/f2e7a55aef2847b8a3d578d6ec19c6ec.shtml

[16] https://web.archive.org/web/20171226031054/http://www.chinatorch.gov.cn:80/english/index.shtml

[17] “北京市成立智能卡行业知识产权联盟.” 2015. HRWF.com. May 2, 2015. https://web.archive.org/web/20180819201245/http://www.hwrf.com.cn/news/87276.html.

[18] See for instance: https://goo.gl/sJwD7B; https://goo.gl/sJwD7B; https://goo.gl/JuzmR4https://goo.gl/Ld4XEC

[19] 飞天诚信守护首都网络安全. 电脑编程技巧与维护. 2015(10),97.

[20] 2014年北京市科学技术奖获奖公告三等奖. May 6, 2015. http://jxw.beijing.gov.cn/creditbj/sxgs/14819.jhtml

[21] https://www.ftsafe.com.cn/article/483.html

[22] https://www.ftsafe.com.cn/article/500.html

[23] https://www.ftsafe.com.cn/article/509.html

[24] 胡滢. 锁住的商机. 中国电子商务杂志. 2003(8). 58

 

 


Related:

Google Advanced Protection Program: How to lock down your account (Google takes aim at “targeted” online attacks. Here’s everything you need to know about the new security option — including whether you should use it), CNet, October 17, 2017.

Google expands its Advanced Protection Program to cover Apple’s native iOS apps, VB, MAY 3, 2018.

GOOGLE STAFF TELL BOSSES CHINA CENSORSHIP IS “MORAL AND ETHICAL” CRISIS, The Intercept, August 16, 2018.

GOOGLE EXECUTIVES MISLED STAFF IN MEETING ON CHINA CENSORSHIP. HERE ARE 13 QUESTIONS THEY MUST ANSWER. The Intercept, August 17, 2018.

New Gmail feature could open more users to phishing risks: Government officials, ABC News, July 17, 2018.

 

 


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In Search of Better Digital Protection for Human Rights Defenders In China

Safeguard defenders, September 19, 2017

 

saveguard defenders _ a project by

info@safeguarddefenders.com

 

Among the many revelations into the systematic repression of the human rights community to have come to light since the beginning of the 709 Crackdown have been accounts from those released about the access of police and state security to chat logs and emails, even communications and documents those people thought they had deleted.

This heightened awareness has certainly pushed the idea of taking digital security precautions in how to prevent sensitive information from falling into the hands of police in the event of detention. However, the focus of trainings and guidebooks is often directed in the wrong direction, namely on more advanced hacking and sophisticated intrusion. This continued focus on advanced threats actually has and will continue to harm human rights defenders’ safety. This is because it is not only nearly impossible to defend against such high level threats but that also in almost every case this is not the real threat. In the end, time is consumed trying to defend against a largely non-existent threat.

It is true that the capability of the Chinese Government concerning data forensics and hacking has developed like other aspects of the country, but those often limited resources are used against other bigger, and usually international, targets. On top of that, police and state security know well that the impunity with which they can act means that they have more direct, easier, access to whatever a human rights defenders’ computer or phone might hold; namely the use of direct threats, torture and intimidation against family, friends and loved ones. There are exceptions, but against these tools of repression, few people can stand up for long.

Real security must thus be based on the fact that a defenders’ computer and phone will be taken, and chances are that they will be forced to give up the information the police is after. The threat of torture or disappearance is sadly quite effective against even the best password or encrypted file. Any training and training material must be based on this reality. Digital security requires physical and behavioral changes in addition to passwords and applications.

The reality is also that digital security solutions that decrease the efficiency of our phones and computers are likely to be abandoned after time, regardless of the quality or number of trainings the rights defender or journalist has attended. Security solutions are only solutions if they are actually applied and maintained, something a lot of training material seems to gloss over when they offer solutions that are realistically not feasible for the majority of rights defenders.

Real security, that is sufficient and sustainable, can only come from finding the middle path, by focusing on real threats, while offering solutions that come from basic behavior rather than advanced technological solutions.

The newly released Practical Digital Protection self-study guide has been developed with these considerations in mind. It was developed over 12 months, together with journalists, lawyers, NGO workers and rights defenders across China, looking at their own experiences with security issues, detentions, interrogations and data forensic techniques applied by police and state security. The manual doesn’t only provide behavior-based solutions, but also real-life stories from defenders illustrating how their own best or worst case solutions have had a direct impact on how their technology has either been used against them, their partners, and coworkers, or prevented from being exploited by the State.

The following abridged story is one of several from the Practical Digital Protection manual.

A seasoned rights defense lawyer received a message on Telegram from a trusted colleague that the police had been asking questions about her and that she should expect to be detained or at least questioned. She had at this point already taken on many rights defense cases and worked with many other similar lawyers for several years. She was quite skilled in cybersecurity, having always been afraid police might detain her or take her computer and try to use her information against her. She rarely used WeChat, and never for work. She even knew how to use hidden encryption, not only to protect the data itself, but also to hide its very existence. Police can’t ask about what they don’t know exist she figured, correctly.

The information she had wasn’t just about her, but also about others. If this information fell into the wrong hands it didn’t just mean possible imprisonment for her, but for others. She had already been smart enough to realize that normal encryption would be of little help. If police knew what to ask for, she doubted that she would be able to resist for long, as she as a lawyer was well aware that the legal protections against torture and mistreatment in China are barely worth the paper they are written on.

When the police eventually detained her and placed her alone in a cell, to undergo more than a month of interrogations, they also seized her computer, several phones, and USBs.

After a few days in detention, she was very surprised when the police began to start each new day by showing her documents from her computer. She knew these documents had been stored in a hidden encrypted space that the police did not have access too, or even knew about. She was frantic each time the police produced one of these documents. These documents threatened to expose some of her sensitive rights defense work and provide evidence that would make it easy for the police to go after her clients or other lawyers she had worked with.

Before being detained she had agreed to a cover story with her colleagues who might also be detained. Some of the documents the police produced challenged their cover story, and severely increased hers and their risks.

The documents the police had were very random. Many of them were also just partial, a few pages of a larger document. How did they get these documents, she continued to wonder.

In the end, the police did not find the ‘smoking gun’ they were looking for, and even though she remains to this day under threat, having been released on ‘bail’, with police able to pick her up again any day they wish, the fact that most documents remained protected saved her.

Only after her release, with time and access to information online did she figure out what had gone wrong. File Recovery program it read. With this, she would learn of something that even many of those skilled in Cybersecurity fails to understand, or if they do understand it, fails to realize how big of a threat it is.

Data, she realized, are like memories. They linger for a long time, and even when they begin to fade, it happens slowly, and only parts of it disappear. Data, once ‘deleted,’ she realized, is not actually deleted, but continues to lie on the hard drive, only not visible to the normal user. It’s all still there, until the space holding the data is filled up with something new. The fact that most of data was in an encrypted space didn’t always matter, as many of the documents she had produced over the years had been created on the desktop (outside the encrypted area), before being moved to the encrypted space (which leaves traces of the original). An act of laziness. Many documents had also been deleted over time, she like most thus assumed they were safe. It had been deleted after all.

So what had happened? All those documents that had been on her normal hard drive, once moved to the encrypted storage, were readily available to the police using File Recovery, easy to use programs available for free online. All they had to do was scan her hard drive in detail, and step by step pieces of old data long ago deleted could be put together. This is because the documents weren’t properly erased from her computer. But there are solutions. Programs such as CCleaner for example, securely delete files to make sure nobody can ever recover them. Understanding how data deletion really works, and making secure deletion part of a normal routine will drastically increase security.

Safeguard Defenders new practical digital protection manual (English and Chinese editions) can be found at practicaldigitalprotection.com.

In addition to the current Chinese- and English language editions, other editions are being produced in collaboration with Reporters Without Borders, with a Vietnamese and a Turkish edition coming this fall.

 

 

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为中国的人权捍卫者寻找更有力的安全保障

 

随着709大抓捕的开始,中国政府对人权群体的系统性打压正式浮出水面,许多被释放的人权人士透露出警察和国安得以查看那些他们本来以为已经删除的聊天记录、邮件、和文件等。

此安全意识的提高必然衍生出当面临拘留时如何防止敏感的信息落入警方手中的数字安全预防措施。但是往往很多的培训和手册都将焦点放在错误的方向,换句话说就是更多的在介绍一些更高阶的破解或尖端的技术方案,这种持续将焦点放在高阶威胁的方式实际上对人权捍卫者的安全有害。不仅仅因为他们不太会面临到如此高级别的威胁,也在于大部分所列举的高阶威胁其实并不是真正的威胁。到最后,时间都耗在了和大量不存在的威胁上较劲。

确实,中国政府在数据取证和破解上就如这个国家其他方面的能力般得到了很大的进步,但是这些有限的资源通常都用在其他更大、更国际化的目标上。更重要的是,警察和国安有更好的办法对付,也就是更直接和容易的办法—-进入一个他们已经拿到手上的人权捍卫者的电脑或手机,用直接的威胁、酷刑或对朋友和爱人进行恐吓。有人能够撑住,但面临这些压迫的手段,很少人能够支撑很长时间。

真正的数字安全应该是基于人权捍卫者的电脑或手机被没收后,当面临被警察强迫交出密码或信息的情况。很不幸就算是设置了最强的密码并且加密了文件,用酷刑和强迫失踪的威胁手段通常都能轻易破解掉。任何培训或培训手册也必须基于这个现实。数字安全除了必要的强力密码和程序外,还要有操作习惯和行为的改变。

另一个现实是降低我们使用电脑和手机效率的数字安全解决方案往往可能随着时间的推移而被放弃,不管这些人权捍卫者或律师们参加过的培训次数和质量。安全解决方案只有在被真正用到和持续的情况下才能被叫做解决方案,但很多的解决方案对于多数的维权人士来说都并不实用也不具备可持续性。

内容充分且具有可持续性的真正的数字安全,只可能来自于找到中间点,通过将焦点放在真正的安全威胁上,然后基于基础的操作行为来提供解决方案,而不是高阶的技术性解决方案。

最新发布的数字安全自学式实用手册就是基于这些考量而制作的。这本手册的制作花费了12个月,结集了来自中国各地的记者、律师、NGO工作者和人权捍卫者,通过深入他们自身面临的安全问题、被拘留、审讯和被警察和国安用到数据取证的技术而来的经验。这本手册不仅仅提供基于操作行为的解决方案,同时也加入了来自捍卫者们的真实故事,描述他们在数字安全的技术操作中做出的最正确或糟糕的解决方案是如何对他们自己或同事造成直接的正面或负面影响的。

下面的节选故事就来自数字安全实用手册中的多个故事之一。

一位经验丰富的维权律师收到她信任的同事的Telegram消息,提到警方盘问了很多与她有关的问题,同时提醒她可能会被拘留或至少被讯问。她接手过许多维权案件,也和很多其他类似的律师合作过多年。她对于数字安全非常在行,因为总是在担心警方可能将她拘留,或是没收她的电脑而试图从中找到一些对她不利的信息,所以她几乎不用微信,至少是从不会在工作中用到。她还知道如何使用隐藏加密,不仅仅用来保护数据,更是隐藏这个加密盘本身的存在。她认为这样警察就无从问起他们根本都不知道是否存在的程序。

她所掌握的不仅仅只有她自己的信息,也有他人的。如果这些信息落入错误的人手里,就意味着不仅仅她自己可能入狱,也包括其他人。她非常清楚的知道普通的加密根本起不到多大作用,一旦警方找到讯问的入口,她无法确定自己能够坚持抵抗多长时间,她自己就是一名律师,太清楚在中国对禁止酷刑和虐待的法律保护远远不及条款上所写的那样有价值。

当这一天终于来了,警察来带走了她,将她单独关押在某个地方,进行长达一个多月的审讯,他们同时也没收了她的电脑、手机和USB。

在几天的关押后,她非常讶异于警察开始每天向她出示一点从她的电脑里面找到的文件,她记得这些文件都被存在硬盘的加密空间内,而且警方也完全没有进入硬盘的密码,每一次当警察拿出一份新的文件时她都感到焦虑,这些文件危及到她做过的一些敏感案件的曝光,也相当于给警方提供更便利的打击她的客户和其他一起工作的律师的证据。

在被带走之前,她已经和其他可能会被带走的同事协商了好了掩饰说辞,其中一些被警方找到的文件和她的说辞背道而驰,大大的增大了他们的风险。

警方找到的文件都很随机,多数的文件都只有一部分,比如来自大word文档中的几页,她始终想不通,他们到底是怎么得到这些文件的。

后来,因为警方并没有找到他们想要找到的“确凿证据”,尽管这样,她也没有获得真正的自由,她被取保候审,也就是警方可以在任何他们想要的时候再次带走她。不过总的来说还是因为大部分被保护的文件没被找到的情况救了她。

在她被释放之后的日子,通过在网上搜索信息,最后才终于弄清到底是哪里出了问题。是文件恢复程序让警方能够时不时的找到一些零碎的文件。因为自己的亲身经历,使得她又如狼似虎的去学习这个连很多在数字安全方面很厉害的人都不明白的东西,或者说就算他们明白,但也忽略了这能带来多大的威胁。

她后来了解到,数据就如记忆,它们停留的时间很长,甚至在它们开始消失时,也消失的很慢,只有其中的一部分消失掉。数据一旦被“删除”,并不意味着被真正的删除了,它会继续躺在硬盘里,只是不会出现在一般的用户眼前。但它一直都在那儿,一直到这个数据所在的位置被新的东西填满。事实上光是将大部分的数据都存在加密空间内其实还不够,因为过去的多年里她的很多文件都是先创建在了桌面(也就是在加密空间之外),后续才将它们转移到加密空间的(这样原来的文件则会留下痕迹)。这其实是一种偷懒行为,一直以来删除的很多文件,她如其他的很多人一样以为会安全,以为它们都已经被删掉了。

所以会怎么样呢?所有那些在普通硬盘内存在过的文档,一旦被转移到加密空间,就意味着准备好被警方用网上随便都能免费下载的文件恢复程序,他们只需要用程序仔细扫描硬盘,一步步的找出删除的旧数据,然后将他们拼凑起来。这是因为那些文件并没有完全的从她的电脑中被清除。不过对此是有解决方案的。如程序CCleaner,可以安全的删除文件,并确保他人无法恢复已删除的文件。了解数据删除的运行原理,确保删除成为工作的常规动作将大大的提升安全性。

Safeguard Defenders 的最新数字安全实用手册目前有英文版和中文版,可以在网站 practicaldigitalprotection.com 下载。

除了目前的中文和英文版手册之外,其他的版本由无国界记者与Safeguard Defenders联合制作,越南版和土耳其版将在今年秋天面世。

 

 

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What to Make of the Explosive New WeChat and QQ Spying Revelations? September 10, 2017