New semi-censorship on Sina Weibo, and lots of keywords blocked and unblocked during September

New Semi-Censorship

We are currently monitoring more than 12,000 keywords on Sina Weibo, out of which around 2500 are currently blocked. When searching for any of those blocked keywords, you get the following message:

根据相关法律法规和政策,“[the blocked keyword]”搜索结果未予显示。

This translates into:

According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, search results for [the blocked keyword] can not be displayed.

These keywords generate no search results at all. Recently, however, a new form of self-censorship has emerged in which some results are returned but not all (big thanks to Jason Ng at BlockedOnWeibo for letting us know). Take, for example, weibo: 八九纪念 ("remember 89") and weibo: 河蟹 ("river crab", used instead of 和谐 which means "harmony" and is used to refer to censorship). These had been fully blocked since we started monitoring them in May this year. However, sometime in September, searching for either of the two started returning some results, followed by this new message:


which translates into:

According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, some of the search results for [the blocked keyword] can not be displayed.

An even more interesting example is weibo: 民泽江. It used to be fully blocked, but in September was partially unblocked (displaying the message quoted above). Then, at least as of October 1, it has been fully unblocked.

This new semi-censorship level resembles the one practiced by Baidu, which admits to self-censoring but still returns selected results.

Blocked and Unblocked

The following keywords were not blocked prior to September, 2012, but have been blocked since that month and onwards.
  1. weibo: 三表哥
  2. weibo: 克强
  3. weibo: 张培莉
  4. weibo: 砸毁警车
  5. weibo: 自焚

And these keywords were all blocked before September, but are not blocked anymore:

  1. weibo: 3月20日
  2. weibo: 4月3日
  3. weibo: 5人被刑拘
  4. weibo: 8x8
  5. weibo: BJ日报
  6. weibo: fang binxing
  7. weibo: guangcheng
  8. weibo: q=cache
  9. weibo: qd
  10. weibo: xing 爱
  11. weibo: xing 爱
  12. weibo: youtube
  13. weibo: 九八
  14. weibo: 二胡
  15. weibo: 互联网信息办公室
  16. weibo: 五套 功法
  17. weibo: 倪玉兰
  18. weibo: 八九纪念
  19. weibo: 公告
  20. weibo: 冤案
  21. weibo: 加兹温
  22. weibo: 勿忘
  23. weibo: 北戴河会议
  24. weibo: 吃人
  25. weibo: 吃少年
  26. weibo: 合肥 法院
  27. weibo: 国家 军队
  28. weibo: 大使馆
  29. weibo: 大力王
  30. weibo: 大腿肉
  31. weibo: 孤立事件
  32. weibo: 审理
  33. weibo: 尼尔伍德
  34. weibo: 师傅 天线
  35. weibo: 康 宝宝
  36. weibo: 开来
  37. weibo: 抗议
  38. weibo: 护士长
  39. weibo: 抵制日货
  40. weibo: 无修正
  41. weibo: 晚自习后
  42. weibo: 暴露
  43. weibo: 替身
  44. weibo: 杀人狂
  45. weibo: 正无
  46. weibo: 毒杀
  47. weibo: 民泽江
  48. weibo: 江绵恒
  49. weibo: 法广
  50. weibo: 熙来
  51. weibo: 立军
  52. weibo: 立案
  53. weibo: 纪委
  54. weibo: 纳米比亚
  55. weibo: 经济观察报 查封
  56. weibo: 美 大使
  57. weibo: 腌肉
  58. weibo: 自行离开
  59. weibo: 薄
  60. weibo: 藏 里
  61. weibo: 讲真相
  62. weibo: 起东
  63. weibo: 连环失踪案
  64. weibo: 邪恶的党
  65. weibo: 阿炳
  66. weibo: 非法献花
  67. weibo: 韩耀
  68. weibo: 领馆
  69. weibo: 食人魔
  70. weibo: 马力宏
  71. weibo: 驻华大使馆
  72. weibo: 骆 信访办
  73. weibo: 骆家辉 信访办
  74. weibo: 高干子弟
  75. weibo: 高瞻
  76. weibo: 鸵鸟肉
  77. weibo: 黄奇帆
  78. weibo: (梅)宁华


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Thu, Sep 24, 2015

Apple blocked CNNIC CA months after MITM attacks

In March of this year, Google found unauthorized digital certificates for several Google domains. The root certificate authority for these domains was the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). CNNIC was controlled by the Chinese government through the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and is now under the management of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). CNNIC was recognized by all major browsers as a trusted Certificate Authority. If CNNIC signs a fake certificate used in a man-in-the-middle attack, no browser will warn of any unusual activity unless the certificate is pinned.

Wed, Sep 23, 2015

Malicious Xcode could spread via download manager Xunlei

What’s at stake?

We reported last week that popular Chinese iOS apps were compromised in an unprecedented malware attack. We discovered that the source of the infection was compromised copies of Xcode hosted on Baidu Pan. Apple has published an article urging developers to download Xcode directly from the Mac App Store, or from the Apple Developer website and validate signatures. We’ve now discovered that even if a developer uses a download link seemingly from Apple, he might still be possible to obtain a compromised copy of Xcode.

Please note that we do not have evidence that such attacks has happened. But it is an easy attack that anyone can implement.

How does it work?

This compromise happened because of Xunlei. Xunlei is the most popular download manager in China. Much of its popularity is due to the fact they can accelerate download speeds by pulling resources from other Xunlei users as well as cached copies on the Xunlei server. All of this, however, is invisible to users. Users can simply enter a regular http download address into Xunlei  download manager and the download will start. Chinese developers were using direct download addresses such as to download Xcode.

Mon, Sep 21, 2015



Sat, Sep 19, 2015

Popular Chinese iOS apps compromised in unprecedented malware attack

What happened?

According to recent reports, some versions of Xcode used by developers in China have been compromised and are being used to inject tracking codes in iOS apps without developer knowledge. (1,2). Unaware of the injection, those developers then released their compromised iOS apps to the App Store which were then later approved by Apple. At the time of writing this post, the compromised apps are still available in the App store. Any user who has installed and launched these compromised apps will be a victim of these tracking codes.

This is a significant compromise of Apple’s app store. Apple notoriously manually reviews all app submissions and, in comparison to Android stores, has been relatively malware-free. This is the most widespread and significant spread of malware in the history of the Apple app store, anywhere in the world.

The compromised version of Xcode was hosted on Baidu Pan. It is unlikely that Baidu was aware of the compromised version of Xcode. The company removed the files yesterday when news of the compromise surfaced. Because of slow download speeds from foreign websites in China, many Chinese developers prefer to download apps from domestic websites. Many Chinese also use download software like Xunlei, rather than downloading directly from the official Mac App Store.

According to users reports, many prominent Chinese apps are affected. We have included links to the compromised apps in the list below but DO NOT DOWNLOAD these apps. We are simply linking to them so that users can recognize the apps. Affected apps include:  

Wechat The most popolar messaging app in China 

Wed, Sep 16, 2015



Roya, David, Nick, nweaver, Vern, 和我刚刚完成了关于GFW主动探测系统的研究。这个系统在几年前就被用来探测翻墙工具,比如Tor。我们在之前的博文中介绍过GFW主动探测系统是如何工作的。但有几个问题我们没有回答。比如这个系统的物理结构是怎样的。那些用来主动探测的IP是归GFW所有的么? 有猜测GFW短时间内劫持了部分IP来用来主动探测,但没有证据。这次研究回答了这些问题。


  • 通常来说,如果Tor的某个网桥代理被GFW检测并封锁,它会一直被封锁。但是这意味着网桥代理完全无法访问吗? 我们让中国的VPS一直连接我们控制的网桥代理。我们发现,每25小时,中国的VPS可以短暂的连接到我们的代理网桥。下图显示了这个现象。每个数据点表示中国的VPS试图与网桥代理建立连接。中国联通和中国教育网都有这个周期性现象。有时候,网络安全设备在更新规则时会默认允许所有流量,但我们不知道GFW周期性现象是不是因为这个原因导致的。

  • 我们找到了规律,GFW主动探测的TCP头暗示那几千个IP都来自与同一个地方。下图显示了数据包的初始序号和时间。每个数据点都是一个主动探测连接。如果每个主动探测都是从不同地方发出的,我们应该看到随机的数据点,因为数据包的初始序号是随机选择的。但是下图显示主动探测连接虽然来自不同IP,但是非常有规律。我们认为主动探测的初始序号是按照时间产生的。


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