Chinese military using domestic software to prevent espionage

By Zhao Yusha in Chengdu Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/20 17:48:40

Staff from Zhizhangyi Technology demonstrate their system in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, during 2018 China Cybersecurity Week on Wednesday. Photo: Zhao Yusha/GT

The Chinese military is requiring its personnel to install monitoring software that helps analyze their social media patterns and tests their political sensibilities, a move the software developer said helps soldiers to use internet in a more rational way.

The software, developed by Zhizhangyi Technology, a Beijing-based company, can detect sensitive words and websites instantly, once it is installed into soldiers' mobile phones.

In addition to preventing military personnel from being exposed to harmful information, the system can also gather information from its users, according to a handbook sent to the Global Times on Tuesday by the company.

The gathered data, including users' browsing history, contacts and messages, is used to help analyze their behavior, social circles and interests.

Apart from analyzing a single soldier's social and psychological pattern, the system can assign a soldier into a high risk group, so the military can give them political education, according to the handbook.

Soldiers may be easily corrupted by online vices such as gambling and pornography. Politically incorrect information can poison their mind, leading to serious consequences, Zhou Ling, chief marketing officer of the company, told the Global Times.

According to the company, it has cooperated with more than 100 military institutions from the Army, Navy and Air Force of the People's Liberation Army. Its software has been installed in  over 500,000 mobile devices within military institutions, said Zhou.

Threat to national security

These analyses help the military take precautions and safeguard the minds of soldiers who are in danger of being corrupted, said Zhou.

He said the inappropriate use of mobile devices in the military is very serious because it threatens China's national security, so special technology must be used to prevent the leaking of information.

"Everyone in our barracks was asked to install such software in recent years… We firmly support such technology because serving in the military requires us to be triple careful compared to people in other industries," a soldier serving in a military base in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, who asked for anonymity, told the Global Times.

He said that the military also imposes punishment on those who refuse to install or try to circumvent such software.

One soldier from his barracks was put on a six-month probation period and fined 30,000 yuan ($4,400) when caught using a second phone without such software, said the anonymous soldier.

Early in 2016, the PLA released comprehensive counter-espionage software, which can be installed on PLA personnel's mobile devices, to curb leaks of military information and filter unhealthy information on their mobile phones, said the People's Liberation Army Daily.

The newspaper also warned soldiers in 2017 against the use of food delivery and fitness tracking apps, which can all potentially leak sensitive military information.

Data collected from the anti-espionage system is analyzed by military personnel in the Western Theater Command. This data includes the number of illegal websites visited and messages with sensitive words that have been intercepted. Photo: Zhizhangyi Technology

Privacy concerns

According to the anonymous soldier, one of the biggest problems that concerns him is that software developers may give users' personal information away.

His concern was dismissed by Li Daguang, a professor at the National Defense University of the PLA in Beijing, saying such a situation is "unlikely."

Li told the Global Times that "such companies only gather data and provide analyses to the military. And the military is the one who holds control of all the data."

Moreover, these kinds of software use encrypted data, which makes it a closed system and hard to hack into, Li said.

There are many successful examples of private companies helping the military build safe cyberspaces and protecting the military's big data, Liu Jinyu, a professor at the Research Center of the National Defense University, said at a conference during 2018 China Cybersecurity Week, which is held in Chengdu this week.

During the conference, some experts noted that China still relies on imported technology to defend its cybersecurity.

"When it comes to core technology for protecting military information, we'd better use Chinese technology. That's why we need to encourage the participation of private institutes in the field," said Liu.

Newspaper headline: Securing the soldiers

Posted in: MILITARY

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