spyware
  • The “Study the Great Nation” app is a root-level spyware app installed on over 100 million devices.
  • The app was launched in January by the Chinese Communist Party and was aggressively promoted via social networks.
  • Reports say that many Chinese citizens were obliged by their employers to install the spyware app on their phones.

According to a discovery that came from Cure53 researchers, an app that was released by the Chinese Communist Party to push its propaganda is basically spyware. Called “Study the Great Nation”, this application is hugely popular in the country, having at least 100 million users right now. The app is installed with superuser access on the device’s operating system and comes with a convenient backdoor for the government to spy on its people. The information that can be gathered through the backdoor includes messages, photos, contacts, and Internet browsing history.

It is important to clarify that there is no evidence of the Chinese government actually gathering information, but the backdoor is there, and they could be using it selectively. Moreover, the researchers have figured that the app is following unsafe data security practices in general. This could be due to mistakes and carelessness in its development or done on purpose. Whatever the case, “Study the Great Nation” introduces many security risks to its users, and everyone should be warned of the fact. The app isn’t asking for any permissions, but instead is aggressively securing them, so users are left in the dark.

Besides stealing data, a remote operator can very easily track the device’s location, activate the microphone and record audio, call a number, and fire up the camera app. All of this is taking place without the user realizing, as the developers have gone to great lengths to hide the app’s modes and this is suspicious, to say the least.

To ensure that the “Study the Great Nation” app finds its place inside the devices of millions of Chinese citizens, it was backed by multiple social media campaigns when it launched. It was also promoted on popular platforms like WeChat and Weibo. According to additional reports, workplaces that are controlled or owned by people who are members of the Chinese Communist Party have made the installation of the application mandatory for all employees. That said, even if these people learn about the true nature of the app, it is unlikely that they will be allowed to remove it from their phones.

If you are obliged in any way to install “Study the Great Nation” on your phone, the only piece of advice that we can provide you with is to use a “burner device”, or show up at work with a “dumb phone.” This way, you will at least secure some level of privacy while not having to risk your job, social status, and even freedom.

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