U.S. Company Claims China Stole Filter Software

SANTA BARBARA Calif.  — China has been accused by an American company of stealing the software it wants placed in all computers sold in China.

Santa Barbara-based Solid Oak Software in Calif. claims segments of its CyberSitter Internet filtering software are found in the Chinese program, known as “Green Dam Youth Escort," The Wall Street Journal said Saturday.

Solid Oak is seeking an injunction to stop U.S. companies from shipping computers to China preinstalled with the Chinese software, which has been mandated by the Chinese government.

Solid Oak President Brian Milburn said the company received an anonymous e-mail Friday claiming Green Dam may include elements of code for Cybersitter. A tech team compared the two programs and reported finding similarities. Researchers at the University of Michigan studying the Chinese program came up with similar results.

"I am 99.99 percent certain that if not the entire program at least a good proportion of it is stolen CyberSitter code," Milburn told The Journal. The Chinese firm behind Green Dam, Jinhui Computer System Engineering, denied stealing anything and called the charge "impossible."

Green Dam has been ordered installed into all new computers as an anti-porn measure to protect children on the Internet in China, but critics have argued the software burrows deep, can affect systems, can prevent the viewing of more than adult content and has been called spyware.

Major American computer companies such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard are wary of the software mandate. Meanwhile, Reuters reports China is projected to have the largest PC market in the world by 2011, with nearly 50 million units expected to be shipped annually by 2012.

Because the software will only be used in China, a Chinese court will have to settle the matter based on Chinese law, though some attorneys suggest it may be possible for Solid Oak to win an injunction in the U.S. against the installation. But that wouldn't stop the loading of software into machines inside China.

All computers sold in China after July 1 must include Green Dam, preinstalled, or as a bundled disc to be loaded. It's still not known how China will follow-through on the mandate its Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Chinese officials said the software has been downloaded 3 million times since March and has been used in some 2,300 schools, according to the China Post.

ChinaTechNews called global criticism and fears over the software "misguided," also stating the charges Green Dam could transmit personal information, cause PCs to malfunction and make them more vulnerable to hacking "reads more like a description of a standard Microsoft Windows operating system than the security software that is meant to protect young Chinese computer users from pornography."

"Any computer connected to the Internet can transmit personal information and is vulnerable to hacking," ChinaTechNews said. "If you have read this far, we already know what type of browser you are using, your operating system, the name of your Internet service provider and the IP address at which you are sitting. Even if you are using obfuscation software, we at least know the type of obfuscation software you are using and its originating IP address. We can see you scowling, too."

The Chinese English-language site, which appears to be a veiled government Web mouthpiece on tech, said there's nothing wrong with Jinui's associations with the Chinese military and state security, suggesting companies such Symantec, Sophos, and Kaspersky "surely have ties to government-related security agencies around the world as they seek lucrative deals, "

The site also calls the translation of the software's Chinese name a problem, "an unfortunate moniker whose second word is a homophone of an offensive curse and whose last element is a synonym for a prostitute."