Update to national firewall suspected as cause of temporary foreign site blackout
Fresh concerns have been raised about China’s censorship of the internet after many users in the country found themselves unable to access foreign sites for a short time.
At approximately 11am on Thursday many users in mainland China reported being unable to access any overseas websites as well as some major domestic pages, the Wall Street Journal reported. Additionally, users in Hong Kong found sites like Baidu and Sina Weibo difficult to reach.
One of the possible causes for this short outage was attributed to the 8.7 magnitude earthquake that struck off Indonesia that morning. There was speculation that the underwater cables connecting China with the rest of the online world were disrupted, which would echo a similar incidence in 2007.
However, this theory has a few holes. As Tech Sina reports, Telecom and Unicom, two of the country’s broadband operators, denied a “backbone network failure” was responsible.
Additionally, some internet users employing smaller and lesser known virtual private networks (VPNs), which are used to circumvent the Chinese firewall, reported no connectivity problems at all.
“It’s possible [more mainstream VPNs] were short of capacity and that’s why some people got through, but given that obscure VPNs were working I find that hard to believe,” David Wolf, of Wolf Group Asia, told The Guardian. “My gut feeling is that it was a software upgrade. The fact it was updated in a couple of hours suggests someone woke up and realised.”
The consequent rumour that has emerged is that China has updated its firewall, potentially to make censorship easier. If such an action proved to be true, it may have been prompted by a need to defend the country from attack.
Anonymous recently made China a target, publishing files from a government defence contractor. Additionally, the alleged Chinese arm of the hacktivist collective said it would attempt to take down the ‘great firewall’ as part of an ongoing assault on the government.
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