GreatFirewall.biz blocked by, ehem, the Great Firewall

Dear reader. I know something about you. You are either not in the People's Republic of China - or you are using a VPN or proxy to bypass the Great Firewall. Otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this. Since yesterday, this website has been added to the list of websites blocked in China. As you can see to the right, other websites with information about the Great Firewall are blocked too.

Why, oh why?

Chinese people don't need this website to test whether a website is blocked or not - they can simply type in a URL or search and if it's blocked, the connection will be reset or timeout. Or do they? When a website doesn't work, it could be because it's blocked, but it could also be caused by the website itself. How can you tell the difference? You can connect your VPN and try again - or, you can test it on this website. A website is only marked as blocked by us if it 1) works when accessed from the US and 2) does not work when accessed from China.

Take, for example, the current difficulties of accessing Gmail in China. Our monitoring shows that this is caused by the Great Firewall - but the government has denied this and seem to want people to think that the problem lies with Google. Isaac Mao, a Chinese blogger, commented that the government is "testing the tolerance of the people" adding that "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".

Indeed. So the government is doing what it can to prevent people from finding out.

One of the oddest rumours out there is that Gmail isn't working because the servers are located in earthquake-hit Japan...

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Thu, Feb 18, 2016

From the desk of Lu Wei: Apple, encryption and China

Lu Wei, Director of the Cyberspace Administration of China, offers some friendly help to FBI Director James Comey.

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 http://adcdownload.apple.com/Developer_Tools/Xcode_7/Xcode_7.dmg to download Xcode.

Mon, Sep 21, 2015

中美互联网论坛回信

你们的公司有责任尊重人权,防止您的业务被侵犯。我们知道,中国是你们公司的一个重要市场,但恳请您在美国促进和保护人权的同时,也同样在中国致力于此。习主席的访问和美中互联网产业论坛是一个理想的机会,明确表示你的公司将会捍卫隐私权,反对成为监控同谋,将它们的强大在中国和美国一视同仁。

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 

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Our own tests, linked in the Related list top right on this page, confirm that this website has been unblocked in China. Yay, we're open for business again!

We were unblocked for three days, now blocked again..

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