Gmail now 45 times slower than QQ, 8 times slower than Yahoo

Many people in China are experiencing problems accessing their Gmail these days. The website hasn't (yet) been blocked outright, in the sense that, etc are blocked. Instead, the Great Firewall and the masters behind it seem to try to make Gmail slow and partially blocked, as our monitoring confirms. Average download speed of Gmail in China is now 45 times slower than QQ as shown in this diagram (for more comparisons, see our new Guanxi index).

Some people are wondering whether the problems are caused by Google or the Great Firewall. Google has denied that the problem lies with their service, adding that "this is a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail". Though the Chinese government has protested its innoncence, our automatic monitoring of Gmail confirms Google's view. All our tests are verified by also accessing the website from a server outside China, and Gmail has not had any problems when accessed elsewhere. In China though, it's lately been partially blocked and usually very slow.

Thinking of switching to another email provider?

Yahoo seems to be fairing much better than their other foreign competitors at this point. Perhaps it's related to their prior collaboration with Chinese authorities over jailing dissidents. If this is not an issue to you, switching to Yahoo might be an option. Whatever option you go for, make sure that the URL you're starts with "https://", and not "http://". A single "s" makes all the difference to the Great Firewall. HTTPS, or encrypted connections, mean that the Firewall cannot know what you are reading and writing - if there's no "s" everything is open to inspection by big brother.

Switching email providers is a hassle for many reasons though - you lose your old messages, your contacts and you have to inform your friends of your new address. If you want to continue to use Gmail you might want to consider a VPN, which will let you completely bypass the Great Firewall.

What about VPN's?

Some VPN services have also been targeted recently and been disrupted on and off. You can check out our Tools section for an overview. Some are completely blocked whereas others are slow or fully available. Please note that the statistics for the VPN services on this page only refer to access to their main website - and may not be an accurate indicator of the actual VPN service.


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Thu, Sep 24, 2015

Apple blocked CNNIC CA months after MITM attacks

In March of this year, Google found unauthorized digital certificates for several Google domains. The root certificate authority for these domains was the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). CNNIC was controlled by the Chinese government through the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and is now under the management of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). CNNIC was recognized by all major browsers as a trusted Certificate Authority. If CNNIC signs a fake certificate used in a man-in-the-middle attack, no browser will warn of any unusual activity unless the certificate is pinned.

Wed, Sep 23, 2015

Malicious Xcode could spread via download manager Xunlei

What’s at stake?

We reported last week that popular Chinese iOS apps were compromised in an unprecedented malware attack. We discovered that the source of the infection was compromised copies of Xcode hosted on Baidu Pan. Apple has published an article urging developers to download Xcode directly from the Mac App Store, or from the Apple Developer website and validate signatures. We’ve now discovered that even if a developer uses a download link seemingly from Apple, he might still be possible to obtain a compromised copy of Xcode.

Please note that we do not have evidence that such attacks has happened. But it is an easy attack that anyone can implement.

How does it work?

This compromise happened because of Xunlei. Xunlei is the most popular download manager in China. Much of its popularity is due to the fact they can accelerate download speeds by pulling resources from other Xunlei users as well as cached copies on the Xunlei server. All of this, however, is invisible to users. Users can simply enter a regular http download address into Xunlei  download manager and the download will start. Chinese developers were using direct download addresses such as to download Xcode.

Mon, Sep 21, 2015



Sat, Sep 19, 2015

Popular Chinese iOS apps compromised in unprecedented malware attack

What happened?

According to recent reports, some versions of Xcode used by developers in China have been compromised and are being used to inject tracking codes in iOS apps without developer knowledge. (1,2). Unaware of the injection, those developers then released their compromised iOS apps to the App Store which were then later approved by Apple. At the time of writing this post, the compromised apps are still available in the App store. Any user who has installed and launched these compromised apps will be a victim of these tracking codes.

This is a significant compromise of Apple’s app store. Apple notoriously manually reviews all app submissions and, in comparison to Android stores, has been relatively malware-free. This is the most widespread and significant spread of malware in the history of the Apple app store, anywhere in the world.

The compromised version of Xcode was hosted on Baidu Pan. It is unlikely that Baidu was aware of the compromised version of Xcode. The company removed the files yesterday when news of the compromise surfaced. Because of slow download speeds from foreign websites in China, many Chinese developers prefer to download apps from domestic websites. Many Chinese also use download software like Xunlei, rather than downloading directly from the official Mac App Store.

According to users reports, many prominent Chinese apps are affected. We have included links to the compromised apps in the list below but DO NOT DOWNLOAD these apps. We are simply linking to them so that users can recognize the apps. Affected apps include:  

Wechat The most popolar messaging app in China 

Wed, Sep 16, 2015



Roya, David, Nick, nweaver, Vern, 和我刚刚完成了关于GFW主动探测系统的研究。这个系统在几年前就被用来探测翻墙工具,比如Tor。我们在之前的博文中介绍过GFW主动探测系统是如何工作的。但有几个问题我们没有回答。比如这个系统的物理结构是怎样的。那些用来主动探测的IP是归GFW所有的么? 有猜测GFW短时间内劫持了部分IP来用来主动探测,但没有证据。这次研究回答了这些问题。


  • 通常来说,如果Tor的某个网桥代理被GFW检测并封锁,它会一直被封锁。但是这意味着网桥代理完全无法访问吗? 我们让中国的VPS一直连接我们控制的网桥代理。我们发现,每25小时,中国的VPS可以短暂的连接到我们的代理网桥。下图显示了这个现象。每个数据点表示中国的VPS试图与网桥代理建立连接。中国联通和中国教育网都有这个周期性现象。有时候,网络安全设备在更新规则时会默认允许所有流量,但我们不知道GFW周期性现象是不是因为这个原因导致的。

  • 我们找到了规律,GFW主动探测的TCP头暗示那几千个IP都来自与同一个地方。下图显示了数据包的初始序号和时间。每个数据点都是一个主动探测连接。如果每个主动探测都是从不同地方发出的,我们应该看到随机的数据点,因为数据包的初始序号是随机选择的。但是下图显示主动探测连接虽然来自不同IP,但是非常有规律。我们认为主动探测的初始序号是按照时间产生的。


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<p>Just read <a href=" the 'Great Firewall': China's 'first blogger' speaks out</a>. Some comments on the Gmail situation by Isaac Mao:</p><p>The problems with Google's Gmail service in China is Beijing's way "to test the tolerance of the people".</p><p>"I think the Chinese government is trying to slow down people's communication, and is trying to slow down the speed of information flow in China," Mao told CNN in an interview with Kristie Lu Stout. "They cannot block Gmail totally, at this moment, because millions of people are using Gmail. If it is found that the government did this, people will react even more."</p>

There may be more to this than mere harassment: deep packet inspection and experiments in upgraded filtering methods. Iran seems to be well ahead if the Chinese in this, but it seems that the Great Firewall is on the cusp of a great enhancement.

As demand for more open and free society grows, so does the censorship...

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