Could China blocking VPNs lead to spying on business?
January 04, 2013 — CSO — The "Great Firewall of China," designed to prevent its citizens from accessing some overseas content, has apparently undergone an upgrade.
And some observers say this may not only be an effort to stop citizens from reading or viewing Western information, but also to spy on international corporations doing business in the country who encrypt their internal communications.
The Guardianreported recently that the Chinese government is blocking internet services that have been able to "burrow secretly through what is known as the 'Great Firewall' ..."
"A number of companies providing virtual private network (VPN) services to users in China say the new system is able to 'learn, discover and block' the encrypted communications methods used by a number of different VPN systems," the report said.
"China Unicom, one of the biggest telecoms providers in the country, is now killing connections where a VPN is detected, according to one company with a number of users in China," the report said.
If the encryption works, even if the data is monitored, it cannot be read. It also means that a user's connection effectively starts outside the Great Firewall, providing access to all the sites the government blocks, including those of news organizations, search engines and social networking.
The crackdown is apparently no surprise to some users, who suspected more than 18 months ago, in May 2011, that the government was trying to disrupt VPNs. But The Guardian report said VPN providers are now noticing it as well.
Astrill, a VPN provider for users inside and outside China, has emailed its users to warn them that the Great Firewall system is "blocking at least four of the common protocols used by VPNs, which means that they don't function."