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 Facebook.com, Twitter.com 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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Fri, Mar 27, 2015

CNNIC censored Google and Mozilla’s posts about CNNIC CA

This week, Google found unauthorized digital certificates for several Google domains, the root CA of which is CNNIC. Google and Mozilla both publicly disclosed this security incident and published blog posts(Google, Mozilla). However, Chinese translations of Google’s and Mozilla's blog posts were censored on the Chinese Internet.

  • William Long is a prominent Chinese blogger on IT and tech. He translated Google’s security post without adding any personal opinions. The Chinese blogpost ranked #1 when searching CNNIC MITM in Chinese on Google and Baidu. He tweeted that he received a phone call from propaganda department demanding the post to be removed immediately. The post http://www.williamlong.info/archives/4183.html was deleted. Google cache is still available.

Wed, Mar 25, 2015

Evidence shows CNNIC and CAC behind MITM attacks

Since 2013, we have repeatedly called on major software vendors to revoke CNNIC-issued certificates. Most notably, we raised this issue when we reported on the Cyberspace Administration of China’s (CAC) man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks on Google, Microsoft’s Outlook, Apple, Yahoo and Github. Mainstream media have reported about these security vulnerabilities before and on March 24, Ars Technica reported on Google’s announcement that they have definitive evidence that CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center) was behind a new MITM attack on Google.

From our October, 2014 blog post:

Thu, Mar 19, 2015

We are under attack

We are under attack and we need help.

Likely in response to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), we’ve experienced our first ever distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. This tactic is used to bring down web pages by flooding them with lots of requests - at the time of writing they number 2.6 billion requests per hour. Websites are not equipped to handle that kind of volume so they usually “break” and go offline.

This kind of attack is aggressive and is an exhibition of censorship by brute force. Attackers resort to tactics like this when they are left with no other options.

We are not equipped to handle a DDoS attack of this magnitude and we need help. Some background:

  • The attack started on March 17 and we are receiving up to 2.6 billion requests per hour which is about 2500 times more than normal levels.

Thu, Mar 12, 2015

Collateral Freedom and the not-so-Great Firewall

Recognizing that the authorities have been hesitant to crackdown on our method of circumvention, we have accelerated our expansion of the development of collateral freedom, in three key areas.

Mon, Jan 26, 2015

An Open Letter to Lu Wei and the Cyberspace Administration of China

January 26, 2015

Beijing, China

 

Mr. Lu Wei

Director of the Cyberspace Administration of the People’s Republic of China 中央网络安全和信息化领导小组办公室主任

Director of the State Internet Information Office 国家互联网信息办公室主任

Deputy Director of the Central Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party 中共中央宣传部副部长

Cyberspace Administration of China,

Floor 1, Building 1,

Software Park, Chinese Academy of Sciences,

4 South 4th Street, Zhongguancun,

Beijing, China, 100190

 

Dear Mr. Lu,

On January 22, 2015, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), which is under your direct control, wrote a response to a story we published about an MITM attack on Microsoft. In the post, your colleague, Jiang Jun, labelled our accusations as "groundless" and  "unsupported speculation, a pure slanderous act by overseas anti-China forces".

We at GreatFire.org take great offense to these comments and we will refute them in this letter.

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<p>Just read <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2011/TECH/social.media/03/28/China.blogger.mao/in... 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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