China: Report finds security flaws in mandatory Winter Olympics app for athletes
"Security Flaws Seen in China’s Mandatory Olympics App for Athletes" 19 January 2022
The mandatory smartphone app that athletes will use to report health and travel data when they are in China for the Olympics next month has serious encryption flaws, according to a new report, raising security questions about the systems that Beijing plans to use to track Covid-19 outbreaks.
Portions of the app that will transmit coronavirus test results, travel information and other personal data failed to verify the signature used in encrypted transfers, or didn’t encrypt the data at all, according to the report by Citizen Lab, a University of Toronto cybersecurity watchdog. The group also found that the app includes a series of political terms marked for censorship in its code, though it does not appear to actively use the list to filter communications.
China has entered the final planning stages for a Winter Olympics that will seek to control the spread of Covid-19 by keeping athletes and other participants separate from the greater Chinese population. The app, called MY2022, was designed to bolster those precautions, enabling electronic links between the government and participants to contact trace in the event of any outbreaks. It resembles a broader system of app-based health codes used to control population movements in the event of outbreaks.
The new concerns about the app underscore broader worries about censorship and surveillance during the Games in China, which has one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance and censorship systems. Officials have already said athletes will be given cellular services that will allow them to circumvent widespread blocks on sites like Facebook, Google and Twitter.
In its report, Citizen Lab said it disclosed the security flaws to the Beijing Organizing Committee on Dec. 3 but had not received any response. A January update to the software did not fix the issues, which most likely put the app in violation of China’s newly enacted personal data protection laws, as well as the privacy policies required to list an app on Google’s and Apple’s stores.
Apple and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment. [...]