WE SAY BACKDOORS, BEIJING SAYS RESERVED INTERFACES
The CPC is using internal government directives to mandate that Peoples Republic of China (PRC) manufacturers of information and communication hardware embed and reserve access for CPC agents at times of its choosing into a wide swath of sectors, including major infrastructure, industrial, and service systems. “Backdoors” is the common parlance in English. The CPC refers more explicitly to “embedded and reserved interfaces [内部嵌入和预留接口],” or close derivative terms, which likely include other vulnerabilities beyond backdoors that can be inserted and exploited by CPC actors.
These interfaces hard wire an information-technology dependent world for seamless access and abuse by PRC intelligence and security forces. Here’s what we know:
- Since about 2015 and in conjunction with CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Military Civil Fusion (MCF) program to make PRC defense and intelligence an all-of-society enterprise, Beijing’s central and provincial commissions and military commands have issued directives mandating the structural tapping of devices and systems across economic sectors.
- The CPC’s official daily from March 2015 calls for “the implementation of defense requirements through embedded and reserved interfaces” [内部嵌入和预留接口]. This report follows remarks that month by Xi to a PLA delegation at the National People’s Congress where he called for the in-depth implementation of MCF strategy in the interest of building a strong and resurgent military.
- “Reserved interfaces” or “interfaces” are common terms in computing and IT literature, but here the term defies the common technical engineering objective of assuring interoperability. The backdoors Xi mandates must grant CPC agents convenient future data collection and operational access across transportation, information and communication, Internet of Things (IoT), and other “smart” infrastructure.