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China's Government Unveils 'China Operating System' To Great Skepticism 223

Posted by Soulskill
from the search-many-of-your-favorite-words dept.
redletterdave writes "The government of China is not too fond of foreign mobile operating systems like iOS and Android, so the country cooked up its own homegrown solution: A Linux-based, open-source operating system called the COS, or China Operating System. But consumers have every right to be skeptical; China is using the recent NSA scandal in the U.S. to push its own product. A government-approved mobile operating system, especially in China of all places, reeks of its own backdoor exploits for governmental spying."
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China's Government Unveils 'China Operating System' To Great Skepticism

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  • by Niterios (2700835) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:35PM (#45990067)
    Quick! Someone in the US pirate this and give them a taste of their own medicine!
    • by zlives (2009072)

      heading I would Prefer
      CHinA Operating System (CHaOS) is online

  • by dlt074 (548126) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:41PM (#45990133)

    remember, people in glass houses should not throw rocks. or something...

    at this point i trust our current mobile OS's as much as i trust theirs. at least with theirs i have no doubts i'm being watched.

    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:47PM (#45990187)
      I think it's "People who throw rocks at glass houses shouldn't be stoned." Or something like that.
    • by DigiShaman (671371) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:21PM (#45990629) Homepage

      You're missing the entire point. How can the US be a "beacon of freedom" when we officially are a police state ourselves?! Effectively, our police state is now spreading (or legitimizing) totalitarianism around the world and not just from within. THAT is the problem!.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Mashiki (184564)

        Lies. Obama stands for hope and change! It's unpossible that there is even more spying being done now under his government then there was before and the NSA and other letter agencies are acting outside the bounds of law, constitution, and bill of rights.

        • EVERY spying initiative people are complaining about recently was put into effect when G.W. Bush was President. But then it was necessary because of the terrorists, right?

          • by Mashiki (184564)

            It may well have been put into effect by Bush, it was Obama who expanded them, and in turn let the letter agencies run wild.

            • by Desler (1608317)

              Bush let them run wild, too, no matter that Obama didn't make anything better.

            • by dbIII (701233)
              Doe you really expect a constitutional lawyer to do anything more than minor tweaks to the status quo?
              I don't know why you guys thought he would be anything other than conservative. Oh that's right, in the US political dictionary conservative means batshit insane teabaggers that would destroy the economy if it gave them increased political power, so I can see how people would get confused.

              BTW, how DO you suggest we reign in rogue agencies with vast amounts of influence and dirt on just about every elected
          • EVERY spying initiative people are complaining about recently was put into effect when G.W. Bush was President.

            Certainly, and they were compounded/expanded by his replacement (in spite of promises otherwise.)

            ...your point? Because as far as I can see, both parties suck, and trying to decide which one sucks less is getting harder to do every year.

          • by 1s44c (552956)

            Give up on the party politics. Both Republican and Democrat governments have behaved exactly the same on this issue.

            They both point at each other and cry "Your fault, You did this!" and far too many people believe one side or the other instead of seeing them for what they are, an alliance designed to keep themselves in power at any cost.

      • by dlt074 (548126)

        oh, i'm well aware. pots calling kettles black. or something...

    • It's more a question of who will be watching you.

      Let me put it this way: if the Chinese government knows about the meth lab in my attic, what the fuck do I care? I'm not in China.

    • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:44PM (#45990915)

      I would trust theirs more. I may be watched by both, but at least China doesn't have police power over me.

      • Absolutely agree, its better to be monitored by a government that can't affect your life. Chinese citizens should download the latest NSA software, or maybe we should all use N. Korean software since they don't have the power to hurt anyone outside of their country.....

        Of course commercial information is a different story.

    • by 1s44c (552956)

      remember, people in glass houses should not throw rocks. or something...

      at this point i trust our current mobile OS's as much as i trust theirs. at least with theirs i have no doubts i'm being watched.

      China isn't more proficient than the US at spying, it's just the fake outrage about China's spying is much more public. Most likely you are being spied on a hell of a lot closer than any given Chinese citizen. Changing your OS will only help so far as the NSA is taping the network to and from your computer, your phone, and every bank transfer you make.

  • Given how compromised everything else seems to be what could they be expected to do except to try to have something they can trust. However, that doesn't mean it will ever see the light of day beyond their own governmental computers.

  • Ahem! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheP4st (1164315) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:44PM (#45990167)

    "A government-approved mobile operating system, especially in China of all places, reeks of its own backdoor exploits for governmental spying"
    As opposed to the reek of the daily NSA exploits published by Bruce Schneier?
    In difference from for example the RSA back door this is open source , so the code is there to review for potential back doors for anyone with the necessary knowledge. I can imagine quite a few will do so only to be able and point fingers and say "see, see! they do it too!" and would be little surprised if there is a government sponsored team doing just that as I write with the hope there will be findings to detract attention from scandals closer to home.
  • As opposed to (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JavaLord (680960) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:45PM (#45990171) Journal
    A government-approved mobile operating system, especially in China of all places, reeks of its own backdoor exploits for governmental spying."

    As opposed to an operating system created by an American corporation, which reeks of its own backdoor exploits for governmental spying.
    • I wouldn't be complaining, this is great! Diff all the common code. Hopefully you'll turn up the Chinese backdoors readily, and maybe they've also been smart enough to close some of the US ones, identifying those also.

      • And wonder if it makes sense to use as a firewall in front of a US-friendly one.

        Seems a pair of firewalls ought to be configurable so unless *both* have a back door you're safe.

    • Re:As opposed to (Score:5, Interesting)

      by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:30PM (#45990739)

      As opposed to an operating system created by an American corporation, which reeks of its own backdoor exploits for governmental spying.

      As opposed to an operating system created by a [somewhere you don't live] corporation, which reeks of...

      I think we're getting mired in our own nationalism instead of looking objectively at the facts. Mandarin and Spanish are both spoken more in the world than English. And China has billions of people. We only have millions. Why, exactly, doesn't it make sense for them to develop their own operating system? We're getting stuck on this circle-jerk about the NSA, privacy, etc., but the argument being made here is primarily economic, not political. And economically, it makes sense; The only question on my mind is... why did it take them so long to start?

      • Mandarin and Spanish are both spoken more in the world than English. And China has billions of people. We only have millions. Why, exactly, doesn't it make sense for them to develop their own operating system?

        Because writing a new operating system is the wrong answer when all you need is a localization?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:47PM (#45990189)

    When all the Shell Infrastructure Windows servers got shut down at Venezuela directly from Redmond after the compayy's subsidiary there got nationalized, we learned a valuable lesson: closed source software is an error, at least at any government instances.

    At least the Chinese OS is open source, so it could be audited by the users. I'm not saying they can't place a piece of code in the mobile phones or computers after the community audited it, but to me it looks like a step in the right direction...

    • by unixisc (2429386)
      There is nothing in China forcing the government there to abide by the GPL. They can close all the source if they want. What is RMS gonna do - go to Tiananmen Square?
      • by murdocj (543661)

        Well, if he does, we know how that's going to turn out. Oh yeah, guess the Chinese government is worse than the United States.

        • by msobkow (48369)

          If you're going to dig up ancient history, how about the American treatment of the blacks during the slavery years or the murder of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of First Nations people before that?

          Every nation has it's dark days -- even Canada, which rounded up Japanese people and put them in camps.

          • by tibman (623933)

            I'm not sure if 1989 counts as "ancient history" but it's a valid point. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_1989#Death_toll [wikipedia.org]

            • by dbIII (701233)
              That's actually a sign that things were changing. The tank drivers did not want to run over the protesters and some actively avoided them.
              In Mao's time they would have got in deep shit for that and it would have been a much bigger atrocity.
              In the twenty years since then it has improved a great deal. Nowhere near perfect, I wouldn't want to live there and I know people that don't want to go back - but there's been so much change that Mao and the early days of the recovery from his rule may as well be ancie
        • by dbIII (701233)
          But the US government is a fast learner :(
    • When all the Shell Infrastructure Windows servers got shut down at Venezuela directly from Redmond after the compayy's subsidiary there got nationalized...

      This is very interesting to me, and I've never head of it. I've done some googling and come up with nothing. Do you have any links to share?

  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:47PM (#45990195)

    Endorsed by Daleks everywhere as an alternative to NSA tainted American products!

  • If it's open source, then just audit it. Find what pieces are different in what ways and review those sections. I guess that's easier said than done, but still.
    • What I wanted to say as well. Slashdot conveniently ignored the term. Let me put it here again: OPEN SOURCED.

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:48PM (#45990217) Homepage

    This should start appearing on low-end tablets within months. Especially the ones that use the Allwinner CPU. 100% China-controlled technology at last.

    Where do you download the source?

    • by Herger (48454)

      Or Loongson (Dragon Core)...

      Either way, I look forward to the antics at border crossings when Chinese nationals try to bring Chinese hardware running China OS into the USA. I'm sure there will be no issues there with device searches!

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:51PM (#45990259)

    Can't wait to have a look at it. We know there will be backdoors and other goodies in it. Should be absolutely amazing to see what it monitors, how it does so, whom it calls home to, and so on. Let's see what China considers an ideal piece of software.

    I think this will be a powerfully interesting piece of software to study. We'll learn a lot from it, I'll bet.

  • Eh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:52PM (#45990267) Journal
    I'm skeptical of this system because it is at least the second (after 'Red Flag', possibly more of them than that, certainly a lot more if you count 'nationalist linux forks' generally, rather than just Chinese ones), and past attempts havent exactly set the world on fire with their success.

    More generally, though, I'm skeptical largely because (at the present time) you basically have to shop like Richard Stallman (and possibly even harder than he does, if some TAO-level group has designs on you) to have a chance in hell to even see all the security-relevant software/firmware that goes into your system in anything other than a mixture of OSS components, proprietary userspace applications, and firmware blobs (often doing not-even-a-debugger-knows-what on the various totally undocumented application-specific processors hanging off various busses). So long as that's the case, even if your OS is FOSS and you've audited the hell out of it (odds are you haven't) and you have a robust security model designed to keep applications in check (obligatory XKCD [xkcd.com], odds are that it will all come to nothing because your lowballing vendor has a BSP full of proprietary shit, your GPU vendor won't offer anything but a binary blob unless you abduct the entire Board's families and threaten to return them one slice at a time, and you don't have a clue what various surprisingly punchy microcontrollers and very-low-end ARM cores attached to dangerously useful (and mostly unexamined) busses are doing in their own memory spaces.

    If Team China manages to solve these problems(especially acute in cellphones because the cellular baseband which makes wifi interfaces look like GNU-paradise by comparison in terms of openness and robustness), then I'll be damn interested, no matter how much their 'yet another shitty fork of something that they could have just audited' linux-derivate OS bores me. If they don't manage to solve them, or don't even bother, that this is just some balance-of-trade enthusiast crying into his beer about Android's ubiquity in the Chinese smartphone market, who cares?
    • Do you write for Cracked?

    • I'm skeptical of this system because it is at least the second (after 'Red Flag', possibly more of them than that, certainly a lot more if you count 'nationalist linux forks' generally, rather than just Chinese ones), and past attempts havent exactly set the world on fire with their success.

      More generally, though, I'm skeptical largely because (at the present time) you basically have to shop like Richard Stallman (and possibly even harder than he does, if some TAO-level group has designs on you) to have a chance in hell to even see all the security-relevant software/firmware that goes into your system in anything other than a mixture of OSS components, proprietary userspace applications, and firmware blobs (often doing not-even-a-debugger-knows-what on the various totally undocumented application-specific processors hanging off various busses). So long as that's the case, even if your OS is FOSS and you've audited the hell out of it (odds are you haven't) and you have a robust security model designed to keep applications in check (obligatory XKCD [xkcd.com], odds are that it will all come to nothing because your lowballing vendor has a BSP full of proprietary shit, your GPU vendor won't offer anything but a binary blob unless you abduct the entire Board's families and threaten to return them one slice at a time, and you don't have a clue what various surprisingly punchy microcontrollers and very-low-end ARM cores attached to dangerously useful (and mostly unexamined) busses are doing in their own memory spaces.

      They have an advantage we don't, though.

      They're the ones doing the hardware manufacturing.

      If Team China manages to solve these problems(especially acute in cellphones because the cellular baseband which makes wifi interfaces look like GNU-paradise by comparison in terms of openness and robustness), then I'll be damn interested, no matter how much their 'yet another shitty fork of something that they could have just audited' linux-derivate OS bores me. If they don't manage to solve them, or don't even bother, that this is just some balance-of-trade enthusiast crying into his beer about Android's ubiquity in the Chinese smartphone market, who cares?

    • by hey! (33014)

      A very thoughtful and insightful post. That said, it's *also* true that if somebody can exert control somewhere between the applications and the hardware, you aren't just *vulnerable*, you're wide open.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Red Flag Linux is a commercial project that came out of a university, with some government funding. It is doing quite well in China as an alternative to pirate copies of Windows or for people who don't want the US to spy on them.

      This new OS is aimed at smart phones and tablets. The success of Red Flag Linux isn't really any indicator as to how well it will do. It isn't supposed to be secure against the kinds of hardware exploits you mention, it is supposed to give Chinese companies and home-grown OS to use

  • Been there, done that.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Flag_Linux [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Star_OS [wikipedia.org]

    Not to get all Stars and Stripes, but I trust Communist, Totalitarian dictatorships to write secure OS's about as far as I can throw them.

  • by game kid (805301) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:53PM (#45990285) Homepage

    I thought this sounded like a dupe*, but Red Flag Linux [wikipedia.org] is apparently not a Chinese government project as I began to think for some reason**.

    *On China's part, not Slashdot's!

    **Like, totally not because of the name or anything. ;)

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:54PM (#45990305) Homepage Journal

    Here we have absolute proof that Linux is for Communists. Just as Steve Ballmer said. Only a commie would use free software to write code so they don't have to pay the evil capitalists their 30 pieces of silver.

  • MaOS (Score:5, Funny)

    by orledrat (3490981) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:57PM (#45990343)
    I'm not upgrading. I'm sticking with MaOS. I like my standards open.
    • How about COMMIE OS: China Offering Multi Man Independent Effort Operating System. This is the development model: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Ha just joshing ya, that was then and this is now: Corporate Oligarchy Man in the Middle "I" on Everybody OS. "I" being a loose Chinese translation that means "eye", must have been somebody new to English.
  • So there was that Kylin Linux distro, then Ubuntu Kylin, and "Red Flag Linux," and now... a mobile one? Interesting key word, though, is that the article calls this an Open Source mobile OS. User "war4peace" noticed this, as well. I'll be the first to admit that I am *NOT* a coder, but how many backdoors can you hide in something that is open source? I'm sure it's large and it would take time to go through, but if it is open source it *could* be gone through, right?
    • by Jeremi (14640)

      how many backdoors can you hide in something that is open source?

      Quite a few, if you're clever (although of course you only need one). Code that introduces a vulnerability can be very subtle [mit.edu] -- so subtle that even if someone discovers it, they are likely to think it is a bug rather than something that was placed there deliberately.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:00PM (#45990391) Journal
    If they get foreign language input systems working in Linux, then who cares? At that point they've already improved the community, which is the beauty of open source.
  • by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:01PM (#45990403)
    According to zdnet.com it is not open source. However, due to "safety concerns", COS is not an open source system, revealed a 21cbh.com report.

    If so then they are likely in non complience with the licenses involved.

    • by 0123456 (636235) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:06PM (#45990455)

      If so then they are likely in non complience with the licenses involved.

      I am shocked that the Chinese government would not comply with software licenses.

      • Of course it could just be a mix of open source and closed source similer to google. The OS is open but the email, phone, and chat services are closed source. With strict goverment control of apps on the market.
    • by shentino (1139071)

      Sovereign nations are not bound by the laws of other nations.

    • According to zdnet.com it is not open source. However, due to "safety concerns", COS is not an open source system, revealed a 21cbh.com report. If so then they are likely in non complience with the licenses involved.

      There may be no compliance problem. COS may be like Android, effectively its own operating system with its own API, just using Linux as a host environment.

  • by PPH (736903)

    ... get the source, compile it and load it onto a bare hardware phone?

  • by Tough Love (215404) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:05PM (#45990451)

    The debate is no longer about whether Linux should rule the world, but which flavor should.

  • Step 1: Make Bill Cosby your spokesperson
    Step 2: Bippin and a Bobbin, flippin and a floppen, pudden pops!
    Step 3: PROFIT!!!

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:11PM (#45991183)

    lets ask ourselves: who is going to spy on us with this gear?

    if in the US and its the US spying, that's bad. they can do damage to you.

    if in the US and its china spying, do I really care all that much? I would avoid using any payment methods but as for worrying about what I would say online, I'd think that the foreign governments would not really be able to do much to me no matter what I say.

    your own local government has the ability to thoroughly ruin your life. to me, that makes them the stronger danger to my privacy and freedom.

  • For their Native CPU perhaps? ( RedStar, mostly a MIPS copy, if i remember right. )

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