Thursday, August 06, 2009

China's Internet Filter: Green Dam Censorware for Malaysia too?

Analysis of the Green Dam Censorware System

Scott Wolchok, Randy Yao, and J. Alex Halderman
Computer Science and Engineering Division
The University of Michigan

Revision 2.41 – June 11, 2009

*Update: Addendum 1 added June 18, 2009

Summary We have discovered remotely-exploitable vulnerabilities in Green Dam, the censorship software reportedly mandated by the Chinese government. Any web site a Green Dam user visits can take control of the PC.

According to press reports, China will soon require all PCs sold in the country to include Green Dam. This software monitors web sites visited and other activity on the computer and blocks adult content as well as politically sensitive material.

We examined the Green Dam software and found that it contains serious security vulnerabilities due to programming errors. Once Green Dam is installed, any web site the user visits can exploit these problems to take control of the computer. This could allow malicious sites to steal private data, send spam, or enlist the computer in a botnet. In addition, we found vulnerabilities in the way Green Dam processes blacklist updates that could allow the software makers or others to install malicious code during the update process.

We found these problems with less than 12 hours of testing, and we believe they may be only the tip of the iceberg. Green Dam makes frequent use of unsafe and outdated programming practices that likely introduce numerous other vulnerabilities. Correcting these problems will require extensive changes to the software and careful retesting. In the meantime, we recommend that users protect themselves by uninstalling Green Dam immediately.


Green Dam displays this message when it detects banned phrases.

Introduction

According to recent news reports (NYT, WSJ), the Chinese government has mandated that, beginning July 1, every PC sold in China must include a censorship program called Green Dam. This software is designed to monitor Internet connections and text typed on the computer. It blocks undesirable or politically sensitive content and optionally reports it to authorities. Green Dam was developed by a company called Jin Hui and is available as a free download. We examined version 3.17.

How Green Dam Works

The Green Dam software filters content by blocking URLs and website images and by monitoring text in other applications. The filtering blacklists include both political and adult content. Some of the blacklists appear to have been copied from American-made filtering software.

Image filter Green Dam includes computer vision technology used to block online images containing nudity. The image filter reportedly works by flagging images containing large areas of human skin tone, while making an exception for close-ups of faces. We've found that the program contains code libraries and a configuration file from the open-source image recognition software OpenCV.

Text filter Green Dam scans text entry fields in various applications for blocked words, including obscenities and politically sensitive phrases (for example, references to Falun Gong). Blacklisted terms are contained in three files, encrypted with a simple key-less scrambling operation. We decrypted the contents of these files: xwordl.dat, xwordm.dat, and xwordh.dat. We also found what appears to be a word list for a more sophisticated sentence processing algorithm in the unencrypted file FalunWord.lib. When Green Dam detects these words, the offending program is forcibly closed and an error image (shown above) is displayed.

URL filter Green Dam filters website URLs using patterns contained in whitelist and blacklist files (*fil.dat, adwapp.dat, and TrustUrl.dat). These files are encrypted with the same keyless scrambling operation as the blacklists for the text filter. Five of the blacklists correspond to the categories in the content filtering section of Green Dam's options dialog (shown below).

We found evidence that a number of these blacklists have been taken from the American-made filtering program CyberSitter. In particular, we found an encrypted configuration file, wfileu.dat, that references these blacklists with download URLs at CyberSitter's site. We also found a setup file, xstring.s2g, that appears to date these blacklists to 2006. Finally, csnews.dat is an encrypted 2004 news bulletin by CyberSitter. We conjecture that this file was accidentally included because it has the same file extension as the filters.

READ MORE at http://www.cse.umich.edu/~jhalderm/pub/gd/

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Asking for trouble.

One thing for Malaysia to hijack a Malaysian's computer.

Have they ever considered that another country might hijack computers in Malaysia?

Malaysia. Don't create a problem you will never ever have the ability to contain and control.

Anonymous said...

And the stupid thing about the whole censorship thing is that unless they remove the ban, they are going to see a sharp drop of internet user votes.

ranjali said...

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