Apps enabling users to steal private information from Wi-Fi providers like the foreign ministry are generating serious privacy concerns.
An app can break home Wi-Fi (wireless internet), cryptographic Wi-Fi at commercial locations and even the Wi-Fi being used in China's foreign ministry building, according to a China Central Television (CCTV) report on Wednesday. With the help of the app, the CCTV reporter entered the ministry's network.
Almost 100,000 Chinese users ranked Wi-Fi Master Key app 4.5 out of 5 at the Apple store for convenience.
But the app secretly stores Wi-Fi information and serves like a mobile spy between users, the show reported. It lets users access everything that links with the Wi-Fi such as a provider's WeChat contact information and phone numbers.
The app's operators failed to reply to the Global Times as of press time.
Such an app is illegal and violates user information privacy and may involve hacking technology to assist spying on more information than simply a Wi-Fi password, said Qin An, a cyber security expert at the China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy.
Qin warned users not to trade their privacy for convenience, especially as China's internet technology has reached global levels.
Chinese people are not overly concerned about data security and will trade privacy for convenience, safety or efficiency in many cases, Baidu CEO and Chairman Robin Li Yanhong said Monday.
It was inappropriate and a violation of right for users themselves to spy on information or read anything that they should not have, Qin said.
Internet information leaks and fraud cost Chinese internet users 80.5 billion yuan ($12.8 billion) in 2015, according to estimates by the Internet Society of China.
A 2015 Internet Society of China survey found about 78.2 percent of internet users who responded had had their personal details leaked including names, educational backgrounds, home addresses, national identity card numbers and workplaces.
Some 63.4 percent of respondents believed details of their online activities including shopping records, Web surfing history and IP addresses had been given to third-party companies.