China backs down as Green Dam Youth Escort calls Garfield Porn!

clip_image002Now, that can’t be right! Wasn’t the Green Dam Software actually designed to filter pornography and violence from the Internet in China? According to a report, Chinese Web users testing the software have found that Green Dam is apparently blocking photos of babies, pork, actor Johnny Depp, Paris Hilton and even Garfield (Garfield?!? A cartoon cat? Oh come on, not all cats can wear clothes!)

The authorities seem to have gone a little too far.

International criticism

Thankfully, due to the international criticism it faced, China has backed down and officially announced a delay in the “mandatory installation of the filtering software- Green Dam Youth Escort on all new PCs in China.” We, however, do not yet know how soon this mandate will be restored. The software will probably be further improved, upgraded before it is made compulsory again.

The software will, however, be available for download from 1 July, i.e., today, and will be installed on computers in schools and internet cafes.

Bizarre results

Green Dam Youth Escort is basically a content-control software developed in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Under a directive from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the PRC, it was mandatory to have either the software, or its setup files pre-installed on, or shipped on a compact disc with, all personal computers sold in Mainland China, including those imported from abroad.

The software works by not only tracking key words but also color, leading to some off-the-wall results.

Security vulnerabilities

On 11 June 2009, Scott Wolchok, Randy Yao, and J. Alex Halderman from the University of Michigan located “various security vulnerabilities that can allow “malicious sites to steal private data, send spam, or enlist the computer in a botnet” and “the software makers or others to install malicious code during the update process”.

  • Buffer overflow vulnerabilities may occur when the software performs URL filtering or updates its blacklist filter files due to the use of fixed-length buffers.
  • It can corrupt the execution stack.
  • It can allow execution of malicious code.
  • The feature of automatic filter update opens door to the computer being remotely controlled by the software’s makers.

They recommended that users uninstall the software immediately for protection.

In addition to security vulnerabilities, Wolchok, Yao and Halderman also found that a number of blacklist files used by Green Dam Youth Escort were taken from the censorship program CyberSitter, from Solid Oak Software Inc.

More than $7 million has been spent by the Chinese Government in developing the Green Dam Youth Escort. If we were to go by the rumors, then the censorship officials have a financial stake in the company that produces it.

(Source: xinhuanet)

(Image credit: Garfield)