A team of researchers at the University of Michigan has found a bevy of exploitable vulnerabilities in Green Dam, censorship software that the Chinese government wants to bundle on every PC.
This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that China wanted to require PC makers to bundle Green Dam with each unit sold. The reason: China wanted to protect its citizens from harmful content, also known as porn. However, Green Dam can filter out other things too such as political terms such as Falun Gong. You could call Green Dam Censorship.exe.
Now Scott Wolchok, Randy Yao, and J. Alex Halderman at the University of Michigan report:
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 Green Dam makes frequent use of unsafe and outdated programming practices that likely introduce numerous other vulnerabilities.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.
The big question is whether these flaws enable the Chinese government to take control of PCs. If hackers can do it easily why can't a few government employees?
- Green Dam definitively blocks political sites - and creates security breach
- WSJ: Political Cues in China Web Filter
- WSJ: Breaching China's Green Dam
- MIT: China's "Green Dam" Censorware Could Spawn a Zombie Network