China’s Cybersecurity Week Kicks Off With Flurry of Warnings
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2017-09-15 08:59:19

You meet someone online, send him messages at all hours of the day, and start thinking he might be the one. But then he plunders your bank account, rents two cars in your name, steals your company’s data, and, to top it all off, scams your parents.

That is the disaster scenario laid out in a three-minute video posted Thursday by Party-affiliated news outlet Shanghai Observer and the Shanghai office of the Cyberspace Administration of China. It comes ahead of the country’s so-called national cybersecurity promotion week, a series of events to raise awareness about staying safe in cyberspace that will officially start on Sept. 16.

The video’s prince charming turned out to be a hacker in a hooded sweatshirt, whose interest in the protagonist’s life wasn’t born out of romance, but out of a desire to get answers to her security questions.

The cautionary tale was one of several such alarms raised this week.

A report on the security of mobile phones, published at this week’s China Internet Security Conference, said that more than 90 percent of Android smartphones for sale in China contained serious safety bugs. An industry expert told state broadcaster CCTV that such flaws allow hackers to control the entire phone and obtain the user’s passwords, bank account information, and more.

On Tuesday, anti-virus software company Qihoo 360 said in a report published at another cybersecurity conference that nearly 11 million company email addresses were vulnerable to cyberattacks. It also said the contact information of about half of all Chinese who go online — 731 million people, according to a recent estimate — was leaked in 2016, making them easy targets for telephone swindlers and other scams.

China’s revised cybersecurity law, which took effect June 1, calls on companies to take better measures to safeguard user information and promises heavy punishments for those who fail to comply.

Li Tiejun, a security expert at Cheetah Mobile, a software company, told Sixth Tone that “the cybersecurity situation in China has changed greatly in recent years.” Instead of going after individuals, he explained, hackers are increasingly targeting companies and government departments, many of which don’t have a lot of experience in preventing cyberattacks.

WannaCry, the ransomware virus that hit countries the world over in May, infected some 29,000 individual computers in China, encrypting files and hijacking screens until an unlocking fee was paid. Institutions including universities, government agencies, and even some state-owned companies whose Microsoft operating systems weren’t up-to-date were affected by the ransomware assault. In one case, some of oil giant China National Petroleum Corporation’s gas stations could no longer process bank cards or online payments.

Additional reporting: Zhang Liping; editor: Chen Na.

(Header image: Bluejeanimages/VCG)