China’ censorship system upgrade blocks VPN services, causes weird traffic spikes

On Friday, several foreign-based virtual private network (VPN) providers reported disruption in their services to Chinese users.

Providers such as StrongVPN and Golden Frog noted that Chinese users faced difficulties in accessing some of their sites. The list of inaccessible sites kept changing each day.

VPNs facilitate connection between a computer, a smartphone or other web-based devices and a server in a foreign country by establishing an encrypted conduit. Any transmission or transfer of data through this network is not detected by the government filters. A great number of Chinese use VPNs to access external news sources.

Image via expresso.pt
Image via expresso.pt

The obstructions to connect to foreign websites have been linked to China’s censorship system upgrade, according to the Chinese English daily Global Times.

Besides, China’s firewall technical upgrade has some technical glitch that redirects users away from the restricted websites to a different IP address, who are real users.

China works upon a loophole within the DNS to intercept the Internet traffic going in and out of the country. Whenever it spots a request for any restricted website, it redirects that request to a non-existent IP address (ether) resulting in the request’s time out.

However, following the upgrade the redirects have been routed to real users causing their servers to fail as they receive millions of requests from Chinese users.

The upgrade has impacted not just the accidental worldwide net users but also tens of millions of Chinese users who could not access the web. The Chinese websites were in a mess, said Qihoo 360 – a country anti-virus vendor.

China’s over 600 million Internet users are proscribed from accessing major news sites like BBC, social medias like Twitter and Facebook, and sites such as Gmail, WordPress, Google Maps, and Bing.

China’s attempt to reconfigure its Firewall has resulted in a huge embarrassment for the government although it has tried to save itself by shifting the blame at unknown assailants outside the system.

“The industry needs to give more attention to prevent stronger DNS-related attacks,” said Li Xiaodong, executive director of China’s Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).


Pushpa Mishra

Pushpa is a Dubai based scientific academic editor who worked for Reuters' Zawya business magazine and at the same time a passionate writer for HackRead. From the very first day she has been a blessing for team Hackread. Thanks to her dedication and enthusiasm.