China to Use Stronger Weapons to Censor the Web and it is called Great Cannon — It can block websites and interrupt international traffic like no one else.
Initial security reports revealed that the services have been crippled by China via exploitation of its own internet filter that is called the Great Firewall for redirecting a barrage of internet traffic to its target destinations.
The University of California, Berkley and the University of Toronto researchers identified that the Great Firewall hasn’t been used by China at all but instead a very strong new weapon which they have labelled as the Great Cannon.
In a report published this Friday, Citizen Lab researchers explained that the Great Cannon allows China to interrupt international web traffic while it passes through Chinese websites, infect it with malicious code and repurpose the traffic that China deems appropriate.
This method was used to interrupt the advertising and web traffic for Baidu, which is the biggest search engine company in China, and redirect it at a popular site for programmers GitHub and a non-profit site that runs replicas of websites that are blocked in China called GreatFrire.org.
The attacks, researchers say, continued on Thursday but both sites kept operating normally. They suggested that the system can be equipped with many more capabilities since with just a few tweaks the Great Cannon can perform surveillance on anyone who somehow manages to fetch content that’s being hosted by a Chinese computer. Spying can also be initiated even when a user visits a non-Chinese website having Chinese marketing content.
In their report the research team described: “The operational deployment of the Great Cannon represents a significant escalation in state-level information control, the normalization of widespread and public use of an attack tool to enforce censorship.”
The team has previously conducted extensive research into spying tools used by the government and identified that although the coding and infrastructure of the attacks are identical to the Great Firewall but the attacks have been launched from a different device. This device is capable of intercepting the internet traffic and also altering and redirecting it at a larger scale to just about any website. This kind of tactic is called a “man in the middle attack.”
The report also reveals that China’s latest weapon is identical to the one that has been developed and used by America’s National Security Agency (NSA) and UK’s GCHQ. The system was exposed in the classified documents that were leaked by former US intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden. The documents revealed that the American version of this system can deploy a mechanism of programs that is capable of interrupting web traffic on a broader scale to any site of their choice. This system is utilized for performing targeted surveillance whereas China uses the Great Cannon to implement aggressive censorship.
However, the similar nature of both programs, stated researchers, may embarrass American officials. They wrote: “This precedent will make it difficult for Western governments to credibly complain about others utilizing similar techniques,” according to NY Times.
But Chinese program shows the extent to which officials in Beijing are willing to intensify censorship on the internet. James A. Lewis, the Centre for Strategic Studies in Washington security expert, states that “This is just one part of President Xi Jinping’s push to gain tighter control over the Internet and remove any challenges to the party.”
China continually has been expanding its efforts to induce aggressive form of censorship under its State Internet Information office, which has been founded by Mr. Xi to ensure control over the web within China and to suppress online activism.