GreatFire July

News Sites Update

After Bloomberg was blocked in June, we are tracking whether other news websites will follow with great interest. Of particular interest is http://cn.nytimes.com - the Chinese version of the New York Times which was also launched in June. It has not yet been blocked. The Hong Kong edition of Yahoo! News was less lucky. http://hk.news.yahoo.com was blocked on July 3 and has stayed inaccessible in China since. Yahoo! China (http://cn.yahoo.com), which is hosted in China and operates under Chinese censorship regulations, is still working well though.

Bye-bye Slideshare

http://www.slideshare.net was blocked on July 11 and has stayed blocked since. This is the first time that Slideshare has been permantently blocked since we started monitoring access to it from China in March, 2011.

High-Profile Censorship On Weibo

任志强 , CEO of one of the largest real estate company in China, member of the CPPCC (Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference) and a Weibo profile with 9 million followers had his account temporarily blocked after posting tweets about the Beijing floods. He was unblocked shortly after. Less lucky was the US Consulate in Shanghai whose Weibo account was permanently shut down (full story). 

Censored Video Games

Some insiders reported on Baidu that video games without a special license from Chinese authority will be taken down from any website. The original story has since been deleted but a copy is shown here to the right. The game Political Machine 2008 was blocked on Weibo (weibo: 政治机器2008) though the similar terms weibo: 政治机器 and weibo: 政治机器2012 were not. We can't wait for the day the Chinese polical power struggles become a video game too.

Additionally, the online marketplace Taobao added to the censorship by not allowing any searches for the game Diablo (暗黑3暗黑破坏神diablo). Unlike the likes of Sina Weibo and Baidu, though, they don't admit to censoring but instead only display a message that nothing could be found.

More Glitches In The System

At around 11:00 pm on July 16 and 10:30 pm on July 31, the Great Firewall stopped some of its so called DNS poisoning. On both occasions, the DNS poisoning was back within a few hours. But for the duration of the incidents, it was possible to get correct IP addresses for high-profile blocked websites such as http://www.facebook.com and http://www.twitter.com. Most would still be inaccessible, though, since they are also blocked by IP addresses and by keyword filtering.

Another incident was that China Telecom users were unable to access any foreign websites from about 10:20 am to 10:40 am on July 27. Other ISPs such as China Unicom did not seem to be affected. This follows a similar outage in April this year, though this time it lasted for a shorter time period. Also it seemed to be more complete this time around, seemingly blocking all types of traffic to foreign servers.

Keywords Blocked

These keywords were not blocked in China before July 2012. From sometime in July and onwards, they have all been blocked. A total of 15 new keywords that we track were blocked in July, which compares to 231 keywords that were blocked in June.

  1. google: bloomberg
  2. google: 买通gov做靠山
  3. weibo: chen xi
  4. weibo: dafengqixi
  5. weibo: guo boxiong
  6. weibo: xijingping
  7. weibo: xizang
  8. weibo: 晚自习后
  9. weibo: 胡77
  10. weibo: 胡佳_(社活動家)
  11. weibo: 胡萝卜
  12. weibo: 警车被掀翻
  13. weibo: 阿扁对小胡
  14. weibo: 黄海ci胡

Keywords Unblocked

These keywords were all blocked in China before July 2012. From sometime in July and onwards, they have all been unblocked. A total of 42 keywords that we track were unblocked in July, which compares to 24 keywords that were unblocked in June. 20 of them contain the number 64, which is a reference to the June 4 massacre of 1989. It indicates that any mentioning of that event was deemed particularly sensitive around the time of the anniversary.

  1. weibo: 426社论
  2. weibo: 6420
  3. weibo: 64之 后
  4. weibo: 64之后
  5. weibo: 64之役
  6. weibo: 64二十周年
  7. weibo: 64历史
  8. weibo: 64历史
  9. weibo: 64平反
  10. weibo: 64式手枪
  11. weibo: 64手抢
  12. weibo: 64手枪
  13. weibo: 64旁见
  14. weibo: 64死难
  15. weibo: 64母亲
  16. weibo: 64真像
  17. weibo: 64纪念
  18. weibo: 64血案
  19. weibo: 64血腥
  20. weibo: 64诗集
  21. weibo: 64遇难
  22. weibo: GC党
  23. weibo: bbc
  24. weibo: gongchan当
  25. weibo: gongchan挡
  26. weibo: renquan
  27. weibo: ren权
  28. weibo: 丁关根
  29. weibo: 党下台
  30. weibo: 八大
  31. weibo: 占领重庆
  32. weibo: 发票代理
  33. weibo: 夜袭珍珠港美人受惊
  34. weibo: 宗教 迫害
  35. weibo: 暴动
  36. weibo: 朝鲜+兵变
  37. weibo: 枪声
  38. weibo: 法会
  39. weibo: 猥亵
  40. weibo: 盲人
  41. weibo: 纪念64
  42. weibo: 自焚

Foreign Websites Getting Faster

When we started monitoring websites in March, 2011, the average download speed of an Alexa Top 500 website not hosted in China was less than 13 kilobytes per second. As you can see in this graph, since then it's steadily increased and now stands at almost 18 kilobytes per second. This is still slow of course, but at least it's going in the right direction. Here's the source data.

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Sat, Apr 04, 2015

CNNIC censors news about their own statement

On April 1, 2015 Google announced that they will no longer recognize the CNNIC Root and EV (extensive validation) certificate authorities (CAs).

On April 2, 2015 Mozilla concluded that CNNIC’s behaviour in issuing an unconstrained intermediate certificate to another company was ‘egregious practice’ and that Mozilla products would no longer trust any certificate issued by CNNIC’s roots. Mozilla also published a more detailed report about their actions.

After unauthorized digital certificates for several Google domains were exposed by Google and Mozilla on March 23, 2015, CNNIC censored any mention of these posts. CNNIC is not only a certificate authority, they are also China’s online censorship apparatus. CNNIC was, is and will continue to practice internet censorship.

 

News about the April 1 and 2 annoucements has again been censored on social media and also on traditional media in China.

Below is a screenshot of Weibo posts about these announcements.

 

Tue, Mar 31, 2015

Chinese authorities compromise millions in cyberattacks

The Great Firewall has switched from being a passive, inbound filter to being an active and aggressive outbound one. This is a frightening development and the implications of this action extend beyond control of information on the internet. In one quick movement, the authorities have shifted from enforcing strict censorship in China to enforcing Chinese censorship on internet users worldwide.

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.

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