LOS ANGELES (CN) – In “one of the largest cases of software piracy in history,” the Chinese government helped two state-backed companies steal encrypted data from an Internet content-filtering program developed by a family-owned U.S. company, according to a federal complaint. China uses the software to spy on its own people, says the new filing, while the red giant also made more than $2 billion selling the program with the help of manufacturing behemoths Sony and Toshiba who “chose to turn a blind eye” to its nefarious origin.
The complaint is filed by Santa Barbara-based Solid Oak Software in Federal Court.
Solid Oak Software sued The People’s Republic of China, Zhengzhou Jinhui Computer System Engineering, Beijing Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy and several major computer manufactures, including Sony, Lenovo, Toshiba and Acer. It claims they all played a role in stealing and distributing essential data from Solid Oak’s award-winning filtering program “Cybersitter.”
Cybersitter, designed 14 years ago, helps parents protect children from pornography and violent content on the Internet.
Researchers at the University of Michigan researching the Chinese program “Green Dam Youth Escort” found that Green Dam “had copied verbatim portions of Solid Oak’s Cybersitter program,” according to the complaint.
The researchers allegedly found 3,000 lines of code in Green Dam identical to those in Cybersitter.
The Cybersitter content found in Green Dam is “integral to the basic functioning” of Green Dam, but unlike Cybersitter, Green Dam has filters that “block political and religious content expressing views that differ from those of the Chinese government,” the complaint states.
Green Dam was also found to have “serious security vulnerabilities that would allow third parties to monitor or take control of the computers on which it was installed,” Solid Oak says.
In June 2009, the Chinese government reported that from the end of March to early June that year, more than 53 million home-use computers with Green Dam installed on them had been sold in China. Computer manufactures sold the computers knowing they were installed with stolen property, but failed to do anything about it, Solid Oak says.
Green Dam has also been downloaded “thousands of times” in the Unites States, the complaint states.
Solid Oak claims there have been several thousand attempts to breach the security of its computers and servers, and that the hacking came from servers in China.
Solid Oak seeks an injunction and more than $2 billion in damages for misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair competition, copyright violations and conspiracy.
Also named as defendants are Asustek Computer, BenQ Corp. and Haier Group Corp.
Solid Oaks is represented by Gregory Fayer, with Gibson, Hoffman & Pancione.