Intro: It may come at a price you thought was less for the smart applications it offers, but you should think twice before investing in Chinese phone Xiaomi.
Recently the IAF (Indian Air Force) authority warned their officers and families from using the Chinese made devices, particularly the Xiaomi phone. The IAF has reportedly issued an advisory asking its personnel and their families not to use Xiaomi smartphones on account of 'spying'. It warns that the Chinese manufacturer transmits user data and information back to its headquarters in Beijing (ZEE NEWS reported it on 24/10/2014.)
Xiaomi is the largest mobile phone brand in China, very often called as ‘Chinese Apple’. They launced their 2 smart phones viz. Xiaomi Redmi 1s & MI3. Both are available only on online shopping portal like Flipkart on pre-registration basis. What it means is that if anyone wants to buy these phones they will have to be registered before a certain date. And only on that particular date will the company open their bidding process and only the registered customer would get the chance to participate in it.
Xiaomi currently sells Redmi 1S in India via pre-registration method through Flipkart. The company has already sold 95,000 Mi3 and 5, 80,000 Redmi 1S units via flash sales. The Redmi 1S booking is still open as the company plans to launch Redmi Note and Mi4 in India.
On Flipkart in Cosumer feedback section, maximum buyers allege that they are facing lots of problem in the Xiaomi mobile set. The problems mentioned are-it is getting hot in very short time, automatic syncing hampers their flow of talking and networking and they are suspecting that their data might be under the surveillance of some invisible eye. But still whenever Xiaomi comes in the market, consumer rush to purchase it because it provides added applications at a reasonable price.
According to ZEE News report, a note by the Indian Air Force reads, “F-secure, a leading security solution company, recently carried out a test of Xiaomi Redmi 1s, the company’s budget Smartphone, and found that the phone was forwarding carrier name, phone number, IMEI (the device identifier) plus numbers from address book and text messages back to Beijing.”
The note is said to have added, “According to the Phone Arena report (Phone Arena is the premium website for new phone information), by looking up the website of the company owning the IP address in the range 18.104.22.168-22.214.171.124 reveals that the website owner is www.cnnic.cn. CNNIC is the administrative agency responsible for Internet affairs under the Ministry of Information Industry of People’s Republic of China. It is based in the Zhongguancun high tech district of Beijing. And this is not the first time of Xiaomi facing allegations.
As per reports, the Taiwanese government is said to have started investigating in August on concerns that Xiaomi is a cyber security threat and said it will make a decision within three months. (Reuters reported it on 24/9/2014.
(To see full report see-http://www.f-secure.com/weblog/archives/00002734.html)
However, the company has denied all allegations and issued a software patch, which will enable or disable Xiaomi’s iMessage and MIUI Cloud messaging service.
Recently, a watchdog group has reported cyber-attacks against Apple's iCloud service in China. The group, Greatfire, says the hackers are government-backed. In its defence, Beijing has denied any involvement.
China banned Google map services in their country. They alleged that USA is stealing data and is spreading their surveillance through Google-Map. But China is doing the same thing with India. They are trying to track our each and every mahalla by spreading their Spy-Phone in every galli of India. So it’s our responsibility to be careful otherwise they will end up giving all the information to China unknowingly.
It has also been revealed that China is using different methods for spying our country. Spying through Cyber surveillance is its new strategy. For that they are using different and new methods-Online advertisement (‘malvertising’) is one of them.
Before clicking on the online advertisement just go through the report of the Researchers from Virginia-based security software company ‘Invincea’, which said that they had documented new uses of so-called ‘malvertising’ to carry out highly-targeted cyber-espionage campaigns against three firms in the military-industrial arena. And it is reported by Reuters on 17/10/2014 by the name-‘Malvertising’ is the new weapon for cyberespionage: Research’. (To see full report go to- www.invincea.com)
Research into 'malvertising' has revealed how cybercriminals and spies can use the marketing industry's latest tools (e-commerce) to pinpoint high-value targets. Invincea researchers said the goal of the intrusions appeared to be the theft of military secrets or intellectual property rather than click-fraud or hacking bank accounts. The researchers have also said that in the last two weeks of September 2014, they had detected up to six malvertising attacks that targeted one aerospace contractor and saw similar attacks against two other military contractors.
Basically this is the age old technique of “Global Surveillance”. Global Surveillance took its momentum in 70's decade. At the time of Cold-War, 5 countries jointly formed a Group and a Program for spying on Russia and some other rebel countries.This alliance was called as ‘Five Eyes’ or 'FVEY'. These 5 countries are-USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New-Zealand. Later they developed a Cyber Surveillance programme whose code name was-ECHELON. This cyber-espionage program is so much capable that it can track and hack any satellite transmission, phone calls, fax, email etc. On the basis of this Global Surveillance programme of ‘FVEY’, there was a Hollywood movie released on 2009 named 'ECHELON CONSPIRACY'. Getting influenced by this story Edward Snowden, an American computer professional leaked the different cyber-espionage programme controlled by the US-UK led 'FIVE EYES' group. Snowden was called as a traitor and was punished by US government, but he managed to take a temporary asylum in Russia- and inciting the already existing enmity between USA & Russia.
With the growing tendency of cyber crime provoked by mainly China and Islamic countries, ‘FIVE EYES’ group expanded its peripheri to 14 countries including Five Eyes, Denmark, France, Netherland, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Sweden. Thus it now became a true Western Alliance and was officially named as 14 Eyes or SSEUR (SIGINT Seniors Europe).
To counter this force the leading countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America (i.e. India, China, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa etc.) should start a similar level of Cyber Surveillance programme. But as China wants to be a super power by hook or by crook, it has started its own cyberespionage programme and is trying to capture, track as well as hack all cyber arena.
Recently, China made an agreement with Russia on the cooperation in the field of information security. According to the RT (Russia Today) website and Russian newspaper ‘Kommersant’, the “two-sided agreement on cooperation in the field of information security” will be signed on November 10-2014 during a state visit to China by Russian premier Vladimir Putin. The treaty will enable Russia and China to conduct joint cyber-security operations and develop joint information security projects.
The news comes at a time when cyber security relations between China and the US are at an all-time low, with the West increasingly complaining about Chinese state cyber-attacks on Western targets. This even led to five Chinese army officers being put on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted' list in May for alleged cyber-espionage.
Due to India and Japan’s togetherness, China can't show its 'Dadagiri' in other Asian Countries, so it tries to disturb India's stability by backing some anti national force (like Maoist, Separatists etc.). This time China is playing ‘Cyber-Spying’ game.
So, before buying any Chinese product we must research and know the product details. By being aware, we can help our government combat emerging Chinese threat by making more and more people aware about cyber-espionage.
Debasish Iyer (The writer is an E-Learning Developer under EMRC, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata)