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Tech Thursday: Episode 12

WeChat malware, iPhone prices raise eyebrows, quantum facility, and social credit for businesses: It’s Tech Thursday

Each Thursday, The World of Chinese takes the most ground-breaking, impressive, or just plain weird technological advancements related to the Middle Kingdom and serves them in bite-sized chunks to keep you up-to-date on the latest news in the world of Chinese technology.

Quantum leap forward

China is building a massive “quantum research” facility to focus on a range of technologies incorporating quantum technology, such as stealth submarines and code-breaking. Developers will start bidding on the project this month, slated for a location near a lake in Hefei, Anhui province.

Research will initially focus on quantum metrology, which would be applied in geo-location technologies. Using current technology, submarines need GPS to figure out their location, but this may require them to surface. Quantum technology would allow them to ascertain location underwater.

iPhone 8’s lukewarm reception

China is a big market for Apple, but sales have been dwindling with each recent model of iPhone. The next model, the iPhone 8, is due out later this month, but asks for a hefty 5,888 yuan.

There’s also the iPhone X due out in November, which has an even higher price tag of 8,388 yuan, significantly higher than its competitors and 11 percent more expensive than it is in the US.

Social credit scheme envelops foreign businesses

The Australian Financial Review has published a detailed piece on potential implications of China’s “social credit” scheme for foreign businesses in China. Basically, foreign companies are alarmed at the possibility they may be asked hand over data to the authorities when asked—regardless of the sensitivity of the information, be it trade secrets or coveted IP. There is also the question of how secure these databases may be, with a number of experts asking for assurances regarding precisely who will and won’t be able to access those databases.

WeChat security scare

When it comes to sensitive communications, there are various apps that come to mind: Signal, Whatsapp, Telegram. What’s missing? WeChat. This is because WeChat is easily monitored and ridiculously susceptible to malware that tracks communications.

The latest news involves Remote Access Trojan (RAT) malware, which effectively allows someone else to hijack your phone. Thus far, it’s exclusively been used for political purposes, indicating that it’s more likely the authorities are using it than hackers. Once a “booby trap” piece of software is downloaded onto the phone, it opens a door for someone else to access the phone. The latest development has been an evolution in the software that allows it to specifically go into QQ and WeChat apps and take your chat data. It can then be erased remotely, removing evidence of its presence.

Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that in some circumstance, malware isn’t even needed. It’s official policy in China that if the police end up taking someone to court on criminal charges, they can file a secret application to get hold of someone’s chat history without that person’s knowledge. It’s all logged by Tencent, so whatever you may have sent is fair game. Right to silence? Forget about it.

Cover image from Apple


David Dawson is the former deputy editor of The World of Chinese.

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