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Lithuanian cybersecurity agency finds Chinese phones risk personal data leakage

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The National Cyber ​​Security Center under the Ministry of National Defense (NKSC) of Lithuania conducted a security investigation of the Chinese manufacturers Huawei P40 5G, Xiaomi Mi 10T 5G and OnePlus 8T 5G smart 5G devices sold in Lithuania.

“This study was initiated in order to ensure the safe use of 5G mobile devices sold in Lithuania and the software contained in them within our country. Three Chinese manufacturers have been selected who have been offering 5G mobile devices to Lithuanian consumers since last year and who have been identified by the international community as posing certain cyber security risks,” said Margiris Abukevičius, deputy minister of national defence.

The study identified four key cyber security risks. Two relate to gadgets installed on the manufacturer's devices, one to the risk of personal data leakage and one to possible restrictions on freedom of expression. Three risks were identified at Xiaomi's device, one at Huawei, and no cyber security vulnerabilities were identified at OnePlus' mobile device.

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Risks for gadgets manufacturers

Analyzing Huawei's 5G smartphone performance, the researchers found that the device's official app app store, App App, which does not find the user-requested app, automatically redirects it to third-party email. stores where some gadget antivirus programs have been rated as malicious or infected with viruses. Researchers have also attributed cyber security risks to Xiaomi's Mi Browser. It uses not only the standard Google Analytics module in other browsers, but also the Chinese Sensor Data, which collects and periodically sends up to 61 parameter data about the actions performed on the user's phone.

“In our opinion, this is really redundant information about user actions. The fact that this rich statistical information is sent and stored in an encrypted channel on Xiaomi servers in third countries where the General Data Protection Regulation does not apply is also a risk,” said Dr. Tautvydas Bakšys.

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Restrictions on freedom of expression

Analyzing the performance of the Xiaomi device, the researchers found that it had the technical capability to censor the content downloaded to it. Even several manufacturer's gadgets on your phone, including the Mi Browser, periodically receive a manufacturer's blocked keyword list. When it detects that the content you want to send contains words in the list, the device automatically blocks that content.

At the time of the study, the list included 449 keywords or groups of keywords in Chinese characters, such as "Free Tibet", "Voice of America", "Democratic Movement" "Longing Taiwan Independence" and more.

"We found that the content filtering function was disabled on Xiaomi phones sold in Lithuania and did not perform content censorship, but the lists were sent periodically. The device has the technical capability to activate this filtering function remotely at any minute without the user's knowledge and to start analyzing the downloaded content. We do not rule out the possibility that the list of blocked words could be compiled not only in Chinese but also in Latin characters,” added Bakšys.

Risk of personal data leakage

The risk of personal data leakage has been identified on a Xiaomi device when a user chooses to use the Xiaomi Cloud service on the Xiaomi device. To activate this service, an encrypted SMS registration message is sent from the device, which is not saved anywhere later. "Investigators were unable to read the contents of this encrypted message, so we can't tell you what information the device sent. This automated sending of messages and the hiding of their content by the manufacturer poses potential threats to the security of the user's personal data, because without his knowledge, data of unknown content can be collected and transmitted to servers in third countries," added Bakšys.

Lithuania has already incurred China's rancour; in August, Beijing demanded that it recall its ambassador after it established a representative office in Taiwan, which claims that Taiwan (Republic of China) is part of China (People's Republic of China).

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Corruption in China’s chamber of justice

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The CCP’s former justice minister Fu Zhenghua is now under probe for serious disciplinary violations - he had previously launched a politically motivated prosecution against prominent dissident Guo Wengui AKA Miles Kwok, writes Louis Auge.

In recent days the Chinese Communist Party has signalled its intention to pursue its anti-corruption efforts even amidst the higher echelons of the ruling party’s legal and judicial spheres. The campaign, launched by President Xi Jinping in 2018 with the slogan "Saohei chu'e," meaning "sweep away black and eliminate evil", has targeted a staggering number of purportedly corrupt state actors over the course of the past three years.

China's legislature has hailed the campaign as a huge success – having exposed almost 40,000 alleged criminal cells and corrupt companies, and more than 50,000 Communist Party and government officials having been punished for allegedly abetting them, according to official statistics. And Beijing is showing no signs of slowing down its pursuit of individuals they perceive to have fallen foul of the system – even at the top.

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In what is being perceived as the latest show of China's iron fist against corruption in the political and legal system, over the weekend it was announced that Fu Zhenghua, the deputy director of the social and legal affairs committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) - China's top political advisory body - is under disciplinary and supervisory investigation for suspected violations of CCP protocol.

Before taking up his post at the CPPCC, Mr. Fu had served as justice minister and deputy police chief for the Beijing municipal police department, where he was praised by the CCP hierarchy for cracking down on the city's sex industry, earning himself a promotion to executive vice minister for public security.

He was also known for cracking down on prominent and successful families. In 2014, Mr. Fu a conducted what many critics perceived to be politically motivated prosecution against Guo Wengui AKA Miles Kwok, a high profile CCP dissident now living in exile in the United States. Mr. Kwok subsequently revealed that Mr. Fu had ordered an investigation into the family finances of Wang Qishan, the country’s current Vice President, causing rumours to swirl about Mr. Fu’s political future.

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The allegations against him failed to stick however – with Mr. Fu going on to be promoted to the position of Minister of Justice – but his path up the CCP power ranks now appears to have run out of road. He is not the only high ranking official to feel the wrath of Beijing recently. News of the investigation came just days after the CCP announced it was expelling former vice minister of public security Sun Lijun, having accusing him of "forming cliques and cabals to take over a key department," and of keeping a private collection of confidential documents.

Regarding Mr. Fu, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) - the ruling Communist Party's anti-corruption watchdog - announced simply that he is under investigation for "serious violations of party discipline and law." The one-sentence statement did not offer any further details into the indictment.

According to CNN, the announcement was welcomed by a wide range of figures online, from rank-and-file police officers and prison guards to investigative journalists, human rights lawyers and intellectuals. No doubt outspoken CCP critics such as Mr. Kwok will also have felt vindicated by the development, to say the least.

In recent months President Xi has stepped up his party’s clamp down on rising political stars and overly powerful officials. However what is unusual about the fate of Mr. Fu's is how loudly and widely – in other words, unanimously – it is being celebrated, both by people working for the regime, and by those who have been subject to its repression.

Following news of his downfall, several veteran investigative journalists said on social media they had been targeted by Mr. Fu for their hard-hitting reports, on topics ranging from illegal detention of petitioners to local government corruption.

"The targets of Fu Zhenghua's crackdown are people at the core of China's civil society. Therefore, the country's whole intellectual sector and the wider public are all thrilled by (his fall from grace)," said Wu Qiang, a political analyst in Beijing. "His rise to power represented the aggressive iron-fist approach that has shaped China's governance over the past decade."

Mr. Fu's aggressive approach was also applied to police officers and prison guards, many of whom have been celebrating his downfall on social media. Comments make reference to Mr. Fu’s imposition of draconian working conditions for entry-level officers, such as not allowing prison guards to take breaks during night shifts.

Some analysts have suggested that this series of recent purges demonstrate declining trust from the Chinese leadership in the country's domestic security agencies. In the words of Wu Qiang, “It is very difficult for Beijing to have political trust. This is the biggest crisis in its governance". For critics such as Miles Kwok, it is also a sign of that the fractures within the centre of the ruling party are beginning to widen. Whether it is chasm that can be bridged is anyone’s guess.

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Europe and China must continue talking despite disagreements, EU says

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The European Union and China must continue engaging on a number of issues despite differences, the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell (pictured) told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in a video call, according to an EU statement, write Sabine Siebold and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing, Reuters.

"The High Representative noted that while disagreements still persisted, the EU and China needed to continue engaging intensively in a number of important areas," the EU said, adding Borrell underscored the inclusive and cooperative character of Europe's Indo-Pacific strategy.

China's foreign minister Wang said that both sides must continue the trend of increased engagement in an effort to boost political trust and manage their differences, according to a statement on the ministry website.

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The EU is taking a softer stance on China, one of its most important trade partners, than the United States which has struck a new security deal (AUKUS) with Britain and Australia that is widely seen as designed to counter China's growing assertiveness in the Pacific.

But critics said the agreement undercut U.S. President Joe Biden's broader effort to rally allies such as France to that cause after Australia ditched a submarine deal with Paris to buy U.S. submarines, infuriating France. Read more.

In a nod to the latest attempt to mend transatlantic ties, Borrell, according to a spokesperson, welcomed a joint statement by Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in which they agreed to talks to rebuild trust after the submarine dispute.

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Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou freed by Canada arrives home in China

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A Chinese tech executive released after being detained in Canada for nearly three years has returned home writes BBC News.

Huawei's Meng Wanzhou flew to Shenzhen on Saturday evening, hours after two Canadians freed by China had gone back.

In 2018 China accused Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig of espionage, denying detaining them was in retaliation for Ms Meng's arrest.

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The apparent swap brings to an end a damaging diplomatic row between Beijing and the West.

Mr Spavor and Mr Kovrig arrived in the western city of Calgary just before 06:00 local time (12:00 GMT) and were met by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

A couple of hours later Ms Meng touched down in Shenzhen, China, to applauds from a crowd gathered at the airport.

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"I'm finally back home!," said Ms Meng, according to the Global Times, a Chinese tabloid backed by the ruling Communist Party.

"Where there is a Chinese flag, there is a beacon of faith," she added. "If faith has a colour, it must be China red."

Ms Meng was wanted on charges in the US but was released after a deal between Canada and US prosecutors.

Michael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig (composite image)
image captionMichael Kovrig (r) and Michael Spavor had been held since 2018

Before her release, Ms Meng admitted misleading US investigators about Huawei's business dealings in Iran.

She spent three years under house arrest in Canada while fighting extradition to the United States.

China had earlier insisted that her case was not related to the sudden arrest of Mr Kovrig and Mr Spavor in 2018. But China's the decision to free them after Ms Meng's release appears to show that pretence has been abandoned, reports Robin Brant, the BBC's Shanghai correspondent.

Mr Kovrig and Mr Spavor have maintained their innocence throughout, and critics have accused China of using them as political bargaining chips.

After they arrived in Calgary, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared images on Twitter of him welcoming the pair.

"You've shown incredible strength, resilience, and perseverance," he wrote in the tweet. "Know that Canadians across the country will continue to be here for you, just as they have been."

Mr Kovrig is a former diplomat employed by International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank.

Mr Spavor is a founding member of an organization that facilitates international business and cultural ties with North Korea.

In August this year a Chinese court sentenced Mr Spavor to 11 years in prison for espionage. There had been no decision in Mr Kovrig's case.

On Friday, a Canadian judge ordered the release of Ms Meng, Huawei's chief financial officer, after she reached a deal with US prosecutors over fraud charges against her.

Huawei said in a statement that it would continue to defend itself in court, and looked forward to seeing Ms Meng reunited with her family.https://emp.bbc.co.uk/emp/SMPj/2.43.9/iframe.htmlmedia caption"My life has been turned upside down," Ms Meng tells reporters after being freed from Canadian detention

Before her arrest, US prosecutors accused Ms Meng of fraud, alleging that she misled banks into processing transactions for Huawei that broke US sanctions against Iran.

As part of a deferred prosecution agreement, Ms Meng admitted to misleading HSBC about Huawei's relationship with Skycom, a Hong-Kong based company that operated in Iran.

China's foreign ministry said the charges against her had been "fabricated" to suppress the country's high-tech industries, according to state media.

But in a statement the US justice department insisted it would continue to prepare for trial against Huawei, which is still on a trade blacklist.

Ms Meng is the elder daughter of Ren Zhengfei, who set up Huawei in 1987. He also served in the Chinese army for nine years, until 1983, and is a member of the Chinese Communist Party.

Huawei itself is now the largest telecom equipment maker in the world. It has faced accusations that Chinese authorities could use its equipment for espionage - allegations it denies.

In 2019, the US imposed sanctions on Huawei and placed it on an export blacklist, cutting it off from key technologies.

The UK, Sweden, Australia and Japan have also banned Huawei, while other countries including France and India have adopted measures stopping short of an outright ban.

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