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Chinese police force bent rules on spying

BEIJING — Don't click on links sent by strangers, the police in one Chinese district warned last year, because malware known as Trojan horses use all sort of tricks to burrow into people's phones and computers.

''Curiosity hurts,'' the Public Security Bureau in Wenzhou in southeastern China posted on its social media account.

Yet a few months after that warning, a lower-level police department in Wenzhou was reported to have spent $24,000 buying a device and software designed to plant Trojans into phones to monitor its citizens.

The embarrasing revelation was spotted on the website of the Wenzhou Economic and Development Zone, on a list of purchased items last month.


It showed about $16,000 spent on a coding machine used ''to plant Trojan programs on jail-broken Android or iPhones,'' and nearly $8,000 spent on malware targeting the same phones, ''to monitor in real time information such as cellphone calls, text messages, and photos.''

China's government insists it staunchly opposes hacking and cyberattacks, and has denied US government accusations that it spies on foreign companies. State media have also accused the United States of hypocrisy after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed details of the NSA's own cyber-surveillance program.

Reacting to the Wenzhou report, Chinese Web users cited Article 286 of the country's criminal law that threatens up to five years in prison for those who ''deliberately make and spread disruptive programs such as computer viruses.''

But the revelation did not surprise citizens, who live in a culture where surveillance is central to the Communist Party's effort to ''maintain security.''

Wenzhou's Public Security Bureau has since taken down the offending list of purchases from its website.