A city in eastern China is now telling its stores and restaurants to swap their Wi-Fi routers for government-approved routers or pay a fine. Stores located in Qingdao, in Shandong province, will have to pay up to ¥ 100,000 ($ 18,589) if they do not comply, according to Abacus.
Stores and cafes that offer Wi-Fi hotspots have received a notice from the police to "improve Qingdao's Internet security management" by changing the routers. Abacus discovered that the brand of the router was Bihu (BHU), whose name translates roughly to Necessary Tiger. Interestingly, Bihu also offers an intelligent router powered by a chain of blocks, but we still do not know if those are the routers that the police are issuing as replacements.
The cost of a router pales in the face of the potential fine
Vendors will buy local government routers for ¥ 100 ($ 16) or pay ¥ 400 ($ 63) out of their own pocket, depending on where in Qingdao your store is located. Either method will not be free, but the cost of a router is compared to the potential fine. The Qingdao police also says in the notice that they will pay approximately 8 fen (a penny) to each person who connects to the router every day, a measure that is intended to pay them back to the stores.
In the past, it was discovered that the Chinese routers of Netcore and DBL Technology, based in Shenzhen, had backdoors that bad actors could exploit to gain access. In particular, DBL issued a new firmware patch to correct the problem.
BHU routers also have "multiple critical vulnerabilities" in a 2016 report. Bad actors could have gained root access through the login credentials that are encrypted in the router, which would allow hackers to intercept the Web traffic or redirect traffic to a specific location. The security report noted how the vulnerability allowed someone to block the router by removing critical files.
It is curious that the Qingdao police have issued a notice for the government-approved routers, but other major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are not yet seeing the policy. Qingdao is the home of the Hisense electronics company and the Haier appliance company, but if the policy is aimed at technology companies, Shenzhen City would be a wider target than Qingdao. The city of Chifeng in Inner Mongolia delivered free routers to stores in 2016, and cities like Xiamen have been reminded to install security systems.