23 October 2019

For foreign travellers in China's Xinjiang, the Dalai Lama poses a risk to your corporate data

For foreign travellers in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Dalai Lama poses a risk to your corporate data. Riskline's new Technology and Communication Risk (TCR) reports, covering everything from what not to post on social media to whether there are restrictions on flying drones, assess the risks posed across 225 countries and offer strategies to ensure a safe trip.

Border authorities in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region – where a state of the art surveillance system is implemented to monitor the local population – have recently begun routinely stopping foreign travellers entering the region by land from Central Asia, seizing their smartphones and forcibly installing a surveillance app. The app, known as BXAQ or "Fengcai" gathers a users' personal data, including text messages and contacts, and also scans the phone to check for images, videos, documents and audio files which might correspond to a list of 73,000 items stored in the app's code. Among the items are Islamic State (IS) propaganda, pages from an Arabic dictionary, recorded recitations of the Quran, an image of the Dalai Lama and even a song by Japanese grindcore band Unholy Grave.

Aside from the privacy and human rights concerns surrounding the installation of the app, it also poses a serious risk to the personal and private data of travellers as well as to corporate intellectual property. The use of the app by Chinese authorities represents a step up from more traditional security measures, such as device inspections at the border, in-country technology surveillance and restrictions on social media, and highlights the increasing threat posed to foreign travellers. As information technology and communication continues to develop in the coming years, the methods used by authorities to maintain internal security or combat the misuse of technology - and the tools used by criminal elements to obtain private data, will also become more sophisticated and intrusive.

To this end, there is a need for travellers to be better informed prior to departure and better prepared to mitigate the potential risks which may arise during travel. Riskline's new Technology and Communication Risk (TCR) reports, covering everything from what not to post on social media to whether there are restrictions on flying drones, assess the risks posed across 225 countries and offer strategies to ensure a safe trip.