The Great Firewall of China is Now Nearly Impossible to Breach

Computer users sit near a monitor display with a message from the Chinese police on the proper use of the Internet at an Internet cafe in Beijing, China, Aug 19, 2013. (PHOTO CREDIT: AP)


Ms Jing Yuechen, the founder of an Internet startup in Beijing, has no interest in overthrowing the Communist Party. But these days, she finds herself cursing the nation’s smothering cyberpolice as she tries — and fails — to browse photo-sharing websites such as Flickr and struggles to stay in touch with Facebook friends she has made during trips to France, India and Singapore.

Gmail has become almost impossible to use, and in recent weeks, the authorities have gummed up Astrill, the software Ms Jing and countless others depended on to circumvent the Internet restrictions that Western security analysts refer to as the Great Firewall.

By interfering with Astrill and several other popular virtual private networks (VPNs), the government has complicated the lives of Chinese astronomers seeking the latest scientific data from abroad, graphic designers shopping for clip art on Shutterstock and students submitting online applications to overseas universities.

“If it was legal to protest and throw rotten eggs on the street, I’d definitely be up for that,” Ms Jing, 25, said.

China has long had some of the world’s most onerous Internet restrictions. But until now, the authorities had tolerated the proliferation of VPNs as a lifeline for millions, from archaeologists to foreign investors, who rely on less-fettered access to the Internet.

But earlier this week, after a number of VPN companies, including StrongVPN and Golden Frog, complained that the Chinese government had disrupted their services with unprecedented sophistication, a senior official for the first time acknowledged its hand in the attacks and implicitly promised more of the same.

The move to disable some of the most widely-used VPNs has provoked a torrent of outrage among video artists, entrepreneurs and professors who complain that in its quest for so-called cybersovereignty — Beijing’s euphemism for online filtering — the Communist Party is stifling the innovation and productivity needed to revive the Chinese economy at a time of slowing growth.

“I need to stay tuned into the rest of the world,” said Mr Henry Yang, 25, the international news editor of a state-owned media company who uses Facebook to follow American broadcasters. “I feel like we’re like frogs being slowly boiled in a pot.”

Multinational companies are also alarmed by the growing online constraints. Especially worrisome, they say, are new regulations that would force foreign technology and telecommunication firms to give the government “back doors” to their hardware and software and require them to store data within China.

Like their Chinese counterparts, Western business owners have been complaining about their inability to access many Google services. A few weeks ago, China cut off the ability to receive Gmail on smartphones through third-party services such Apple Mail or Microsoft Outlook.

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SOURCE: Today Online

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