Greetings from China

The Java Card Forum is meeting in China this week. This is a first for me, so I can’t tell how much Beijing has changed in the past 10 or 15 years, because I don’t know how it used to be. So, here is what I have seen (from a very naive point of view):

  • Consumerism has hit in full force. Advertising is everywhere, including subway handles. Brands are also very present; I can see very large Cartier and Dolce&Gabbana storefronts from my room.
  • Police is not very visible. We see a few police cars around, a few officers here and there, but not more than in the U.S. .
  • Internet is (almost) present. Of all the sites I use daily, Twitter and Wired are the only ones absent. Internet is a bit slow (filtering?), but nothing unacceptable.

Basically, from a naive European view, Beijing is just another modern Asian city, with no Twitter support (for those who haven’t been there in a few years, there are high-rise buildings everywhere, and more cards than bikes, even on Tiananmen Square).

However, we also have interesting information about China, from this Google attacks. The attacks may have been directly state-sponsored, or sponsored by an enthusiastic defender of Chinese interests, I am not sure that we will ever know. In fact, I am almost sure that I don’t care.

The real thing that we should all realize is that nothing we do on Internet can be kept private from our states. We may want to hail the Chinese hackers for their great expertise, but I am sure that there are quite a few states that would be able to perform the same hacks. And if we get similar attacks coming from the U.S. or from one of their allies, would Google take the same position to protect a few people, especially if they are labeled as “potential terrorists”? I don’t know, but I would not bet on it.

This situation gets me a bit worried about cloud computing. If we start putting more and more information in the cloud, it means that we make this information available to people who have enough money to pay for a zero-day vulnerability and a few hackers.

Now, here is a question for the security people: If we use smart cards (with or without Web servers), trusted execution environments, and other client-side “strong” security solutions, how much more difficult canwe make it for these hackers?

I have no answer to that question. One thing I know is that we can’t do anything against server-side bugs that make data accessible. That leaves us with many other means of protection, but how efficient are they?

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