Top Chinese portal Baidu has had its Japanese IME identified as a probable espionage tool after it transpired it is logging all Japanese text entered and sending it off to Baidu, causing such consternation that the government is warning against using it.
The IME (input method editor) needed to efficiently enter East Asian languages on PCs is included with Windows, but Microsoft’s offering is frequently replaced with those of other makers (most notably Google).
Baidu’s freely distributed IME, already noted for its underhanded uninstaller, is now the subject of an official warning from both Japan’s National Information Security Center and its culture ministry MEXT.
According to analysis of the software, it automatically transmits all email, search history, word processor documents and other typing (including, most probably, password strings) to Baidu’s servers for “cloud conversion.”
NISC and MEXT have told some 140 governmental institutions they need to stop using the software lest what remain of their secrets end up in China.
Baidu’s Japanese subsidiary claims 2 million users of the IME, which even given their probable vast exaggeration amounts to a potentially significant trove of government secrets, and the company also provides “Simeji” smartphone software with similar functionality.
After the warning was widely reported they released a new version which they claim addresses the issue and helpfully explained that “no data is logged on our servers without permission from the user.”
Such is the extreme distrust of Baidu online already the only raillery to be seen looks to be against anyone dumb enough to be using it:
“Nothing is more expensive than free?”
“2 million users…”
“I can’t believe anyone would consider using made in China software.”
“To think there were public bodies dumb enough to install this trash on their PCs….”
“Just avoid anything made in China and you are in the clear!”
“As expected of China quality.”
“This stuff mostly gets installed bundled with other software I think, so most probably don’t realise.”
“Simeji has 7 million downloads so I’d be more worried about that…”
“Simeji was made in Japan but got bought up by Baidu.”
“Hopefully they can arrest the users with that new anti-spying law.”
“I’m left wondering about Google’s IME…”