Anyone crossing the Chinese border through specific crossings in the Xinjiang region may have had spyware installed on their phones, according to reports from multiple outlets including The New York Times and The Guardian.

During border crossings, border agents have been telling tourists that they must hand over their phones and any passcodes before they can pass through. That might already be ringing alarms, and it should, because agents then reportedly take the phones and have them interrogated.

If your phone is an iPhone, it is plugged into a device that can scan its contents while Android phones have spyware installed that goes beyond that. In fact, the app, which is called either BXAQ or Fēng cǎi, collects all manner of data including contacts, calendar entries, which apps are in use, and even messages and call histories. There are more than 73,000 files scanned in total with the spyware looking for files and content related to ISIS or just simply excerpts from the Quran. In fact, some music from a Japanese metal band is also on the watchlist.

While border agents are supposed to delete the app once it has been used, it seems that isn’t always happening. Once the app was discovered, it was handed over to experts to work out what it was doing. The outcome was just as worrying as you might expect, unfortunately.

Predictably, Chinese authorities are not saying anything about this discovery.

(Sources: NYT, The Guardian)

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