Xiaomi issues clarification on spying accusation
Xiaomi is attempting to reach Indian authorities, wants to clarify a few points
Xiaomi has been in the news for a two reasons—good and bad. While the good is that they are catering to the masses with powerful handsets in reasonable budgets, the bad is that they are stuck in a security battle.
The recent news of the Indian Air Force alerting its squadrons to refrain from using the Chinese Xiaomi handsets with regards to security concerns has not gone down well for the new comer. Xiaomi has been accused of spying in India by sending critical information back to their China servers without the consent of the user. However, according to Xiaomi, this was an old case (in August) and they agreed that the Redmi 1S smartphone was automatically sending data to the cloud servers in China by default. They also addressed this issue and immediately released an update to the MIUI firmware, which puts off the default settings to sync with the cloud.
F-Secure did a test on the Redmi 1S, (and posted details on 7th August) which cited the issues with the handset. Later, after the software update, the issue, according to F-Secure was resolved and the handset did not send any data out automatically.
Xiaomi has been in the centre of the security-based controversies for a while and now, after the IAF alert, they have issued a letter to the Xiaomi smartphone users in order to clarify the issue.
IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION REGARDING PRIVACY: XIAOMI INDIA
Bangalore, October 27, 2014: There have been reports about an IAF circular claiming that Xiaomi phones are a security threat. While we are attempting to reach Indian authorities to learn specifics, we would like to clarify a few points to assure our users that we treat your privacy seriously.
1. We provide opt-in secure Internet services that greatly benefit users
We offer various opt-in Internet services that bring great user benefits, are free of charge, and require personal data to be stored in the cloud. For example:
● Mi Cloud enables users to back up their data as well as sync it to other devices
● Cloud Messaging allows users of Mi devices to exchange text messages free of carrier charges by routing messages via IP instead of carrier’s SMS gateway
These services are optional (opt-in). Users can turn them on and off at any time. Users can also opt to use similar services from other Internet companies instead, such as Google, WhatsApp, Dropbox and others.
2. We do not collect user data without permission
We do not collect any data associated with services such as Mi Cloud and Cloud Messaging until the user provides explicit consent by turning on the corresponding service(s). Even after users have turned on these services, they can turn them off at any point of time.
We take rigorous precautions to ensure that all data is secured when uploaded to Xiaomi servers and is not stored beyond the time required.
3. We use very high encryption and security standards to protect user data
● We encrypt data using AES-128 standard before storing, which makes it practically impossible for anyone to steal this information
● We protect user passwords and identifiers such as IMEI number using cryptographic one-way hash functions *before* they're uploaded, which means we never actually receive the original information
● No single person, including Xiaomi employees, can decrypt user data stored in Mi Cloud, even if they get access to the hard drives
● We use extremely strict access control policies with multiple authorizations being required for engineers building services that access any personal data
● All access to servers is logged and audited
4. We are moving our Indian users' data to servers outside of China, and to India in 2015
Since early 2014, we have been migrating our services and corresponding data for Indian users from our Beijing data centers to Amazon AWS data centers in Singapore and USA. Parts of this migration will be completed by the end of October, and all of it will be completed by the end of 2014. In 2015, we plan to launch a local data center in India to serve the needs of (and store data for) our Indian users.
These efforts help significantly improve the performance of our services and also provide some peace of mind for users in India, ensuring that we treat their data with utmost care and the highest privacy standards.
For detailed information, refer this recent post by Hugo Barra on this:
5. The concerns raised by F-Secure have been fully addressed
We believe the advisory circular issued by IAF is based on events about 3 months back. It refers to the F-Secure test done on the Redmi 1S in July 2014 about the activation of our Cloud Messaging service (which enables users to send text messages for free, similar to other popular messaging services).
We immediately addressed the concerns raised, which was directly acknowledged by F-Secure 4 days later.
Please refer to this post by F-Secure confirming their concerns were addressed: