Who needs the NSA or GCHQ to spy on you or intercept all your private information, when your translation software poses a security risk and is sending everything back to its base without your knowledge.
The Japanese government has warned various departments and official bodies not to use certain language input software because the products send copies of created documents to servers in other countries. The Baidu IME program for Windows computers is distributed for free on the Internet by Baidu Japan Inc., the Japanese arm of China’s Baidu Inc., operator of China’s most popular Internet search engine.Baidu Japan says the program, often installed with other downloadable software, is used by 4 million people.
The program is an input method editor (IME), which is required on a computer when entering Japanese characters. Baidu IME has cloud functionality that makes use of resources on the Internet in converting keystrokes into kanji, hiragana and other characters used in Japanese text.
According to NetAgent Co., a Tokyo information security company that analyzed Baidu IME, all Japanese characters entered via the program are sent to Baidu’s server located in Japan even when the application’s cloud function is turned off.
NetAgent meanwhile confirmed that Simeji, another Japanese input program from Baidu Japan used on Android smartphones, also sends Japanese characters even when the cloud function is off.
Japan’s Ministry of Education notified 170 universities, schools and other institutions to exercise caution when using the software that can access outside servers, such as the programs made by Google, Microsoft and Baidu. The department didn’t warn against any specific company-branded software.
You do have to wonder whether other translation software poses a security risk or alternative language input programs have a similar backdoor or potential spying capability and are also potentially being used in this way. It is definitely something we all need to consider and take steps to minimise the risk.