Clubhouse says it is improving security to address fear of spying by the Chinese government

Clubhouse says it is improving security to address fear of spying by the Chinese government
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  • Clubhouse was found pinging to servers ‘possibly located’ in China by researchers at the Stanford Internet Observatory.
  • The report identified that a Chinese company, Agora, provided the backend infrastructure to the app.
  • The app was found transmitting unique user IDs and chat room IDs in plaintext, making them susceptible to spying.
According to a security research report by Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), certain vulnerabilities were discovered in Clubhouse’s infrastructure, making it susceptible to spying by the Chinese government.

According to the report, Agora Inc, a Shanghai-based company, provides the backend infrastructure to Clubhouse. Since it is a Chinese company, it is subject to Chinese laws and could be required to turn over data to the Chinese government, if asked.

The SIO researchers were told by Agora that it does not store user data or audio, except for the purposes of monitoring network quality and billing Clubhouse for its work.

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In a statement to The Verge, Agora said it “does not have access to, share, or store personally identifiable end-user data. Voice or video traffic from non-China based users — including US users — is never routed through China.”

Unique user IDs, chatroom IDs transferred in plaintext



A major issue with Clubhouse’s infrastructure seems to be the fact that unique user IDs and chat room IDs are being transferred in plaintext. This would allow spies to monitor internet traffic and figure out who is talking to whom.

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However, the SIO report adds that as long as the chat audio is stored in servers in the US, the Chinese government “probably” cannot access it.

“Over the next 72 hours, we are rolling out changes to add additional encryption and blocks to prevent Clubhouse clients from ever transmitting pings to Chinese servers,” said Clubhouse in a statement to SIO.

Should this be of concern to Indian users?



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Users outside of China might not have to worry, especially if their audio chats are stored outside of China. As such, Indian users might not have to worry about their chats in the Clubhouse app.

Clubhouse users in China who managed to use the app before the ban could land up in trouble if the Chinese government deems it important enough to go after them. Two chat rooms with nearly 7,000 users in total were spotted discussing the 1989 Tiananmen protest, which is a sensitive topic in China.

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