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December 28, 2012
China Cracks Down on VPN
By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor
Anyone looking for digital privacy in China, whether consumer, businessman or VoIP Router supplier, should be disheartened by the recent actions of the new government in Beijing.
The BBC reports that it had been hoped that with the recent change in power in China there would be less internet censorship and monitoring, according to a news release. But so far, actions by the new government have gone the opposite direction.
For years, savvy internet users have been able to get by China’s “Great Firewall,” as it is affectionately called, by using encrypted proxies and virtual private network (VPN) technology. Reports have been coming in since the change in power that VPN services in China are now starting to be blocked.
There are at least three companies reporting some kind of blockage, including StrongVPN. Although there’s no confirmation that the Chinese government is cracking down on Great Firewall workarounds, the government has acknowledged that they have upgraded the firewall—and VPN companies are not complying with Chinese law, according to the news release.
The Chinese government denies that it is closed when it comes to internet access, even though internet services such as Facebook (News - Alert), Twitter, YouTube and Western news sites fail to work there.
The Chinese Ambassador to Britain told the BBC that, “In fact, the Chinese are very much open in terms of the Internet.” He added that China has more internet users than any other country. It has been estimated that around 600 million internet users are Chinese nationals.
But clearly not all traffic makes it into China, and censorship and monitoring is on the rise.
The Great Firewall hinders not just Chinese political dissidents. It also disrupts business in China. Protecting business secrets and transactional information with the VPN protocol is common, and China’s VPN disruption affects all who use the technology.
“Many companies will be hurt by this, because their policies restrict the transmission of data of any kind without the advent of an encrypted connection,” noted Michael Maxstead in the news release, CEO of VPNReviewz.
“If this is just a way of showing who’s in charge,” he added, “the added blocking measures aren’t going to help China in their quest to gain ever more businesses to headquarter in Beijing.”
The Chinese grip on the internet is not encouraging to the rest of the world, noted Bill Bishop on DealBook, according to the new release.
Internet governance still largely is run by Western firms, but as China becomes a greater player on the world stage, its views on acceptable internet restrictions will play a larger role.
So the crackdown on VPN is worrisome to many.
“I have lived in Beijing since 2005, and these have been the most draconian few days of internet restrictions I have experienced,” noted Bishop.
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Edited by Peter Bernstein
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