Need help with technology in China (and Japan).
February 25, 2013 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I leave for a two week stay in China (Beijing), on Friday. I would like to take a laptop with me. I have heard however, that there is a significant risk of becoming infected with malware or spyware. Is this true? I will not have the laptop on me at all times.

Some of these questions are admittedly naive, but I'd rather feel chagrined for asking, then suffer for ignorance. I don't work in a sensitive area (I'm a professor at a 2-year college). So, there is nothing on my personal laptop "worth stealing." However, I don't particularly want to take a stupid risk. I do run antivirus software.

Should I be worried about persons trying to hack into/infect my computer?

Should I be worried about the government wanting to access files (and holding me accountable for some downloaded files like comic CBR files)? I have no idea how stringently IP laws are enforced over there.

WIll I be able to access Google docs or MS Skydrive? (I'm prepping lectures and I want to be able to get them that way (along with keeping them on USB). And my school's webpages?

I do want a computer there (so that I have something to do at night, at the very least), and I can possible get a loaner from my college. Is that much smarter? (I'd have to load a bunch of my own programs. So, that would be more time consuming.)

I'll also be spending two days in Tokyo (I doubt I have anything to worry about, there), if that matters.

Bonus question: This askme suggests some brands to look for. Is it still accurate?
posted by oddman to Technology (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You definitely want to be vigilant. Watch out for man-in-the-middle attacks. For example, let's say you are logging in remotely from China to a computer in the US via Logmein or GoToMyPc. You see a login screen but it looks unfamiliar. It's a fake login screen that will intercept your login credentials and then pass you to the real login screen (or I suppose maybe it could even do that automatically). I presume fake login screens can look like real ones too, but if it's a web page, you could see if the URL is legit. If it's an app like GoToMyPC, then you are just looking at a dialog and unless the screen looks unfamiliar, it may be hard to tell it's fake. So be careful, and also you are probably going to find the Internet is maddeningly slow.
posted by Dansaman at 9:40 AM on February 25, 2013

quick follow-up. Would using something like TOR be illegal and would it reduce the possibility of man-in-the-middle style hijacking?
posted by oddman at 10:54 AM on February 25, 2013

The Chinese government doesn't care about you or your pirated comic books.

The state-owned ISPs (DSL or cable) are not going to run man-in-the-middle attacks on you. When using public wi-fi, be as vigilant as you would be anywhere else.

If you're not browsing spammy Chinese websites, clicking on spam email attachments, or plugging in flash drives from random strangers, nothing bad is going to happen to your computer.
posted by bradf at 12:40 PM on February 25, 2013

I'm really not sure why you think the internet in China is more dangerous than stateside. If you're visiting the same sites, I'd say your chances of infection are very low. What you should be concerned about is access to those sites, some of which may be blocked. I would recommend you look into something like a VPN service (if you a do a search on metafilter you should find some good suggestions). A VPN would do two things for you: 1) it will give you an American IP address so you can use all the sites and services you currently use and 2) if you're worried about people trying to snoop your data they'll be encrypted.
posted by reformedjerk at 7:01 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

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