• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 8:59pm

'Great Firewall of China' upgrade hits VPNs

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2013, 9:43pm

Mainland authorities who have long sought to limit access to information have reinforced the so-called Great Firewall of China, internet firms say, frustrating businesses and raising concerns among activists.

The firewall - the country's system of internet limits and restrictions - has stepped up its targeting of virtual private networks (VPNs), commonly used to bypass controls on websites the government considers a threat.

By using proxy servers located overseas and data encryption, VPNs let users reach sites blocked because of their content or sensitivity, among them Facebook and Twitter, and are also vital to firms by enabling secure communication.

At the same time they have compounded authorities' difficulties in seeking to shape public opinion and limit independent social organisation in the country's online community of 500 million, the world's largest.

Now web users are complaining of VPNs being inaccessible or quickly going down once accessed, while speeds have slowed to a crawl. A senior manager of a major French company said he had encountered a serious problem when using his company's VPN in business travel on the mainland last week.

"I could get connected with the VPN and log in with a password, but from there I couldn't go anywhere. After a while the connection was reset," he said.

"I tried it many times and even consulted the IT department in Paris, but they couldn't solve the problem. They told me the problem must be China's internet firewall."

The manager said his company was involved in some of the most costly infrastructure projects in China. Without the VPN, their sensitive business information could be easily stolen.

In a message to its users, VPN provider Astrill said the firewall system now had the "ability to learn, discover and block VPN protocols automatically".


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This article is now closed to comments

Mainland Chinese are invited to try our technology that anonymizes surfing. It is in Beta, but should let you have access to most sites you are interested in (FB, Google, ..). You can download it for Windows from www.hola.org.
This is ridiculous! I do business in China.
Last week I traveled to Shanghai and my friend shared with me an invitation to private VPN club.
Connection was quite good and stable, but unfortunately you have to be invited to use them.
Sorry, don't want to give URL of this nice service in public.
IF YOU NEED A VPN to use in China send me an e-mail: discoverpanda@gmail.com
they probably suspect the economy and corruption will get worse that's why the stronger censorship.. f*** with the biz needs of the ppl!!!
IAPS Security Services, L.L.C. (just Google it) still has the ability to keep you going with all 5 different vpn protocols (PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, IKEv2, and OpenVPN). Our corporate updates come through this company and they have guaranteed to keep reproducing new servers as/when needed.
The Chinese government is totally disconnected from the people and showing the typical paranoia of communist regimes. Other countries should retaliate.
StrongVPN seems to be working fine for me and most of my foreigner colleagues in China the last few weeks. I have heard some friends say that they do get kicked off earlier than expected, but it will reconnect. I did have a couple of days when I just couldn't get on with Strong. My ExpressVPN experienced greater problems and they are working hard to find a solution.
I personally don't think that MIIT's intentions is to mess with legitimate business people's access to the internet, but their desire to kill the non-paying-non-professional VPN's is great.
May I strongly suggest that chambers of commerce, ambassadors, chairmen of large corporations write to the head of the MIIT and complain about this matter.
Dear MIIT: You are damaging legitimate business in your desire to ban access to social media. Many employees of large western and Chinese corporations must use VPN to access their company servers to get email and update databases. You are hurting legitimate users of VPN. At my factory we need to access the server by VPN to update our CRM and Accounting databases - we now cannot do that and it is a great inconvenience. Why would you ban the updating of an accounting system???
The more you do to block bad news spreading, the more curious people would have become.
Some foreign friends cannot use their credit cards anymore as the encrypted communication with their bank is also stopped. China is isolating itself more and more from the world. Chinese leaders regard its citizens as ignorant kids who need "parental guidance". Welcome foreign companies to do business in China! China wants to promote innovation and creativity! Ha! I think foreign countries should just block also Chinese communications, e.g. from their overseas banks and government companies. Of course they don't have the guts.
My company blocks all access to its website in China. I was told this is so we do not get hacked, but I think its also so that they don't know what we are doing and try to copy us. Anyway, if you are win China w/o a vPN, you cannot access our website. I think this is a trend that will eventually get bigger.
Chinese leaders are one paranoid bunch.



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