Phones using Chinese satellite system 'pose security risk'

TAIPEI • Taiwan's Ministry of Science and Technology has said government employees should avoid using smartphones that rely on China's Beidou Satellite System for their phone navigation system, reported Taipei Times yesterday.

Taiwanese using mobile phones made in the mainland, or other smartphones using related software or chips, might be providing the Chinese military with information via embedded malware, the ministry said.

In a report on mobile device security submitted to the Legislative Yuan, the ministry said the satellite system is mainly used for military purposes, and supplemented by commercial applications.

In recent years, Taiwan has imported many smartphone vehicle navigation products using Beidou Satellite System guidance chips, said Taipei Times.

According to a report in the Liberty Times, the ministry had recommended that all distributors in Taiwan should be required to identify their products that support the Beidou Satellite System.

It is mulling over a ban on the import and sale of smartphones and other devices that could receive global positioning system signals via the Beidou system.

It is believed that the Taiwanese government will compile a full list of applications using or related to the satellite system and put them through tests.

The ministry will also announce a list of software applications that might contain malware, said the Liberty Times.

The ministry said it will call on civil servants to avoid buying or using products that use the satellite system or related software to minimise the chance of "targeted attacks".

It also recommended that the national defence units monitor signals transmitted by Beidou Satellite System, and warn of any anomalies as soon as possible. This would reduce the risk of hacking attacks from China through the satellite signals.

The National Security Bureau said it had discovered the problem last year and had told the National Communication Council and the Ministry of Economic Affairs to develop countermeasures, the Liberty Times reported.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'Phones using Chinese satellite system 'pose security risk''. Print Edition | Subscribe