Beware of cell phones of unknown origin turning into Trojan horses for the authorities

Q: The FBI has been working with the Australian Federal Police to get its own encryption software developed for exclusive use by criminals to spread the word among themselves. Recently, law enforcement agencies have closed the net and arrested a large number of gangsters and drug cartel leaders around the world. While this is certainly good news from a worldwide security perspective, it is possible that the Chinese authorities will “follow suit,” except that China is not using it against real criminals, but against dissidents. If so, what should be done to prevent it?

Li Jianjun: In fact, as I said before, there are some so-called encrypted communication systems that require special jailbreaking for iPhones or Android phones to use. This time it is the Australian Federal Police, as well as the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, bribed some of the past development of this type of software criminals, and the use of these criminals have a sales network, the encrypted phone to each criminal hands, and these criminals did not notice that the whole system is simply odd, not afraid to discuss some of the robbery of the hook, they were caught in a net is also very reasonable.

Of course, discussing political issues is not a home invasion, but in no case should you use software of unknown origin, or special software that must be jailbroken to use. Users can consider using open source software, because we can all examine whether the software has been installed with a back door, and it is much more transparent. If there is suddenly software or cell phones for the so-called human rights movement, and the background of the operator is unknown, and the source code is not disclosed, it means that there is a chance that it is operated by the Chinese authorities.

To a certain extent, Signal is the best open source software for the time being, and Signal is operated by a US-registered charitable organization, just like the way Firefox operates. In order to avoid your data falling into the hands of the state security or public security, the use of unjailbroken cell phones, the use of open source, and the identity of the operator of the software, your security is the greatest protection. This is because there is a good chance that the Chinese authorities will follow suit, but not against criminals, but against dissidents.

Q: Apple has announced new operating system technology and will offer iCloud Plus users a new privacy-protected “Private Relay” VPN service, but users in authoritarian countries such as China and Belarus are unable to use it due to legal restrictions. However, Hong Kong is the only exception city in China that can use the service, but in the shadow of the “Hong Kong National Security Law”, how long can Hong Kong users use the new privacy protection feature “Private Relay”?

Li Jianjun: Given the brutal attitude of the Hong Kong police, I don’t think Apple will be able to provide “Private Relay” service to Hong Kong users for a long time. “It is likely that the police will abuse the Hong Kong National Security Law and ask Apple to hand over the information, or even ask to close some services.

The brutal attitude of the Hong Kong Police Force can be seen from the fact that the Hong Kong Police Force wrote to WIX, an Israeli cloud service provider, asking WIX to close the “2021 Hong Kong Charter” website, and WIX apologized and reopened the website only after public pressure. I personally doubt whether Apple will defend the privacy of Hong Kong users in the end in the face of the Hong Kong National Security Law, otherwise Apple would not have betrayed the privacy of Chinese netizens by handing over the Chinese iCloud service to the state-owned company Cloud on Guizhou for operation. Facebook has a lot of doubts, but at least Facebook has shown by its actions that it refused all requests for information from the Hong Kong police last year under the Hong Kong National Security Law.

If you really want to use the “Private Relay” service, you’d better move your Apple ID to other Western democracies, such as the UK or the US, and don’t expect Apple to be a real fighter for the privacy of Hong Kong Internet users, because Apple has never taken a clear position on the Hong Kong Security Act. If Apple has a clear commitment to Hong Kong users, people may want to consider the newly launched VPN service. Of course, there is still some time before Apple launches its new VPN service, and I believe that Apple will have a clearer position when it formally launches the service, so it will not be too late to consider whether to use it or not.