This week in our Digital World update: Apple rushes to remove apps after Chinese pirate software causes major security breach; France rejects Google’s appeal in latest Right to be Forgotten skirmish; the e-commerce landscape of the Middle East in figures; Thailand’s unelected junta takes censorship to the next level; and Microsoft and Baidu partner for Windows 10.
Apple has removed 300 apps from the app store after researchers announced they had discovered malicious code contained within. The code could execute fake prompts for user details, hijack URLs and read/write data on the copy and paste clipboard on affected devices. Alarmingly, the code – which hadn’t been detected by Apple’s own code review procedures – wasn’t just found in knock-off apps designed to hoodwink the unwary. The code apparently turned up in legitimate apps, including social network app WeChat.
The code apparently comes from XcodeGhost, a counterfeit version of Apple’s app building software, Xcode. The source of the issue betrays a frustrating contemporary truth of doing business in China: apparently, Apple’s US-based servers are so slow in China that even companies with the means to pay are willing to use counterfeit software if it means they can get their hands on it in a timely fashion. App makers are scrambling to correct the issue, and no attacks have apparently resulted to date.
In June, France’s CNIL (Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés) ruled that Google should extend Right to be Forgotten requests upheld on Google.fr to all versions of Google accessible by French citizens. This action would effectively extend France’s own censorship rulings internationally – a fact that formed the basis of Google’s appeal. However, this appeal has now officially failed.
Google now faces fines if it fails to comply, as well as the possibility of the case proceeding to a higher level of the European Union’s justice system. CNIL has additionally clarified that it doesn’t intend to accept requests from outside of Europe, where the Right to be Forgotten has generally not been implemented.
In an update for econsultancy’s ongoing Internet Statistics Compendium series, the focus is on e-commerce trends in the Middle East. Key facts include a valuation of the Arab world’s e-commerce market at $7 billion, the clear prominence of 26 to 35 year olds among online shoppers across most nations (50% in Egypt) and the importance of social in the market (41% of Arab online retail brands use Facebook, 23% use Instagram).
In power since their May 2014 coup, Thailand’s unelected junta is making moves to consolidate its control by setting up a Chinese-style great firewall, capable of censoring or outright blocking websites and apps via a single point of entry for foreign web traffic. A Bangkok-based reporter recently made the discovery after looking through old cabinet resolutions: the cabinet has allegedly instructed the ICT, justice and national police departments to “to set up a single internet gateway in order to control inappropriate websites and to control the flow of information into the country from overseas via the internet”.
Web censorship is not new to Thailand – the 2006 coup d’état lead to the blocking of thousands of websites on the grounds that they endanger national security, defame the Thai monarchy and incite discussion over similar political issues. However, the centralisation of censorship called for in the edicts will mean that the government no longer needs to take action in the courts to force compliance from ISPs.
A report in Business Insider indicates that power struggles within Microsoft (as well as market realities) have seen the tech-giant seek an external partner in China for its search function. Instead of Bing and MSN, Baidu.com is the default search engine and home page on Chinese versions of Windows 10’s Internet Explorer replacement, Edge. Bing remains a core part of Windows 10 functionality – it powers the internal Windows search function, along with virtual-assistant software Cortana.
Baidu’s half of the bargain will involve it offering an easy way for customers to download a legal, licensed version of Windows 10. China has historical issues with illegal copies of Windows in wide circulation – even if consumers weren’t actively pirating their operating system, PC retailers were often doing it for them. The Baidu deal ensures that large filesizes and slow international download speeds are no longer an excuse.
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Beijing security photo by Flickr user Marko Kudjerski
Statue of Liberty photo by Flickr user Alexandre Duret-Lutz
Internet Massage photo by Flickr user Serra Boten
Motherboards diversity photo by Flickr user See-ming Lee