back to article We are shocked to learn oppressive authoritarian surveillance state China injects spyware into foreigners' smartphones

Authorities in a tumultuous region of China are ordering tourists and other visitors to install spyware on their smartphones, it is claimed. The New York Times reported today that guards working the border with Krygyzstan, in China's Xinjiang region, have insisted visitors put an app called Fengcai on their Android devices – …


  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook is pre-installed on my phone

    and Samsung and or mobile service provider will not allow me to uninstall it.

    No, it's not in China, it's in a full-blown Western democracy.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Facebook is pre-installed on my phone

      On mine, I can delete it now (Android 8 and 9 on Huawei), but before that, I could disable it - I also disable most of the Google and manufacturer spyware on my phones as well.

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Facebook is pre-installed on my phone

      I deleted it off mine, soon after did an update and it was reinstalled, with icons on screen and uninstall disabled.

      1. DropBear

        Re: Facebook is pre-installed on my phone

        So you upgrade your Windows XP to 7 and you're surprised that the calc.exe you deleted is there again...? Because that's what OTA phone system updates are, not some "oh, just change this file here..."

    3. JJKing

      Re: Facebook is pre-installed on my phone

      Then swap it for a Nokia AC. It only has a clean O/S straight from The Chocolate Factory. Absolutely ZERO bloatware installed.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Facebook is pre-installed on my phone

        Wanna bet? I'm seeing Nokias with Facebook on them.

  2. jgarbo

    Surprised it took so long

    That area is a favorite recruiting ground for CIA assets. "Tourists" would be rightly suspected of nefarious intent. The CIA uses Muslim Uighurs in ISIS terror networks thought out the ME and north Africa, so the Chinese are right to be suspicious.

    1. david 12

      Re: Surprised it took so long

      Damn those CIA agents subverting and repressing terrorism in China. We want our Muslims to be free to commit terrorist activities, so that we can round them all up and intern them..

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just leave the phone off

    Even better, don't ever visit China or its subsidiaries.

  4. LDS Silver badge

    "don't ever visit China or its subsidiaries"

    Which, when it comes to free press, it's exactly what China wants. Repression works best in the silence.

    1. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: "don't ever visit China or its subsidiaries"

      Repression works best in the silence.

      Everybody knows the horrors committed in North Korea, it does not deter Norks to continue. Knowledge is not a way to stop atrocities. Sadly.

      If there's no money involved, a dictatorship can freely torture, murder, exterminate, nobody will care.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "Everybody knows the horrors committed in North Korea"

        Do we? We have scanty reports, second hand information, and North Korea likes to play with that - look at the reports someone has been eliminated and then reappears - it's a tactic to make sources look unreliable.

        Do we have images from their camps? Direct reports from independent journalists? We mostly have some cheerleaders from abroad allowed to visit it - and only see what they want you to see.

      2. DropBear

        Re: "don't ever visit China or its subsidiaries"

        There's a huge difference between open knowledge of shittery committed existing _outside_ and _inside_ a dictatorship. They generally tend to not give a shadow of a flying fsck about what people outside know (well they do prefer you not knowing but if that's not an option: meh...) but anything being discussed inside tends to be cracked down on with extreme prejudice. As long as people inside can't get organized or even become aware of the true scale and nature of things going on, nobody cares how much democratic states might dislike a dictatorship they already despise anyway.

        How sure are you "everybody" inside North Korea also knows all about those horrors (assuming they didn't happen to their neighbour / family), and how many might even dismiss them as subversive rumours and western propaganda, when people's access to information is basically limited to what their state has been telling them all their life (at full volume, day in and day out, because why not) and what they might gossip about with their neighbour (assuming they dare opening their mouths at all in front of someone who might any time be a state informant)...? You will find nothing but "fervently patriotic righteous people*" anywhere you look in a country where it's reasonably well known (or suspected) that anything else may well get you "un-personned".

        *that's what they will be looking like, and you'll never tell how many might be faking it, because those you could tell tend to fail the Darwin test by definition. All you will know for certain is that at least some of them truly do believe most of it...

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: "don't ever visit China or its subsidiaries"

          There's also a huge difference when you all you know are just some written reports from a few anonymous sources, and a few witnesses interviews, and when the full horror and atrocities are shown you directly, broadly, and brutally.

  5. big_D Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Burner phone...

    A friend had a visit from government security specialists and one piece of advice was that if you are travelling to such countries, you should use a disposable phone during your stay and just reset it and throw it in the bin at the airport when you fly back home. The same advice was also given for laptops and tablets, just throw them in the bin, when your visit is over.

    You don't know what could have been installed and you can never be certain that it has been successfully removed (UEFI rootkits etc.)

    1. adam 40

      Re: Burner phone...

      That sounds like a massive waste of the planet's resources.

      Why not wipe it, bring it back, and sell it on Fleabay?

      That way whoever is "watching" you, will get completely random input from someone else.

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: Burner phone...

        You underestimate the value of "random" real data.

  6. James 51

    Sounds like a business case for BB10 (or even BB7).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sounds like a business case for BB10 (or even BB7).

      These aren't the (An)droids you're looking for...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I looked, and BB Q10s are still selling new for far more than I expected. You may have a point.

      I really liked my Q10 but the banks refused to support it.

      1. James 51

        I really like my Q10 as well. If my infant son hadn't used it as a teething ring and drooled into the microphone it would still be my main phone (was in contract at the time but Vodafone just kept playing support pingpong until the contract ended). The amazon app store still works, that's what I use overdrive on. Some of the websites do come up with your browser is too old message now.

  7. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Never ever make a leisure travel in a dictatorship, it's like giving money for the Wardens.

  8. MJI Silver badge

    How about a Symbian phone?

    Would an old Nokia be safe?

  9. ForthIsNotDead

    I wonder what they'd do when presented...

    ...with my old Nokia 6310i

    1. Mahhn

      Re: I wonder what they'd do when presented...

      they will say "ahh, okay, we already tracking that one"

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prison planet

    The term Prison Planet, I used to think it was a joke, or sci-fi movie crap.

    I wonder if it will be illegal to not own a phone soon.

  11. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Whatever next? They? just make it all up for IT and Media, don't they?

    Authorities in a tumultuous region of China are ordering tourists and other visitors to install spyware on their smartphones, it is claimed.

    The New York Times reported today ......

    Say no more, Squire. FUD Gotta Rule.

  12. ConcernedCitizen

    U.S.Government has DROPOUTJEEP.

    DROPOUTJEEP: "A software implant for the Apple iPhone that utilizes modular mission applications to provide specific SIGINT functionality. This functionality includes the ability to remotely push/pull files from the device. SMS retrieval, contact list retrieval, voicemail, geolocation, hot mic, camera capture, cell tower location, etc. Command, control and data exfiltration can occur over SMS messaging or a GPRS data connection. All communications with the implant will be covert and encrypted."[8]

    Between my cell carrier, U.S., and Chinese spyware it's a wonder my phone can still play my games.

  13. atropine blackout

    Plus Ca Change

    Having spent a bit of time in that part of China, I'd have to say that this level of repression is not really new - just different tech / better publicized. At that time (turn of the century), the roads in the area were some of the best in China - and were built *solely* for the benefit of heavy troop movements.

    Even then we used Chinese-made burner phones; cash, rather than credit cards - you get the drift..... maybe still good advice.

    Incidentally, part of the ongoing Han Chinese paranoia towards the Uighurs may stem from the fact that, unlike the Tibetans further South, the Uighurs are not (at all) given to turning the other cheek. In other (completely unreported at the time) news, the PLA and their nastier cousins, the Gong An, came off a decidedly poor second in several small encounters with Uighur groups in the desert West of Urumqi.

    Didn't really help in the long run though, and its hard to see this ending well.

  14. MonsieurTM

    Ha ha serves people right for visiting and givingoney to an oppressive regime... Uh-oh... I live is the UK... Oops...


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