HomeLatest UpdatesChina warns of fake Digital Yuan wallets • The Register

China warns of fake Digital Yuan wallets • The Register

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has warned local netizens that fake wallet apps for the nation’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) are already circulating and being abused by scammers.

The digital renminbi – aka the e-Yuan or e-CNY – is already widely used in parts of China where extensive pilots have commenced. Using the digital currency requires an app – here’s the iOS version – and a link to a bank account. The currency is essentially digital cash with Chinese characteristics – the potential for surveillance that has seen CBDCs become the subject of protests in other nations.

China has promoted the app with cash giveaways, by encouraging merchants to accept it, and by making it prominent at major events like the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Transaction values have reached the tens of billions measured in US dollars and over 260 million digital wallets have been issued.

That’s a scale bound to lure cyber-crims – and they have duly shown up with some old tricks.

In a post to social network QQ, the ministry warned of fake apps that use patriotic themes, or get-rich-quick schemes, to convince users to hand over personal information.

Others operate customer service groups in which victims are induced to pay money.

The ministry’s post advises Chinese netizens to be wary of apps promising high returns without loss, thanks to insider information about investments, – and also to be careful when scanning QR codes and visiting unfamiliar websites.

The advice also recommends accessing apps only through official channels. Unfortunately that’s a little more difficult in China than elsewhere, as the nation is thought to host over 100 Android app stores – the biggest of which are run by major handset manufacturers like Huawei and Xiaomi. Many of the smaller app stores are harder to pin down.

Readers will doubtless be familiar with the many occasions on which even Apple and Google have let malware and data-stealers into their app stores. The Register fancies that many of China’s myriad Android app stores do likewise – or do worse in their efforts to detect harmful software.

Wherever the dodgy e-CNY apps come from, the ministry wants netizens to check its lists of known bad apps and steer clear of them.

The Register expects Chinese authorities will also remind app store operators of their responsibility to ensure the Middle Kingdom’s internet is free of nasties. Similar edicts have been issued to social media services, broadcasters, and publishers.

A crackdown would serve Beijing’s wider ambitions for the digital yuan, which it is advancing as a token for cross-border payments. Today, the US dollar dominates global commerce – a role that greatly benefits the United States in many ways. China wants more global trade to take place in currencies and systems it controls. A rash of rogue and/or fraudulent e-CNY apps will make it harder for Beijing to find willing customers for its digital currency. ®

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