Surfing the Internet in China slower on Sundays

Browsing websites is often a slow and frustrating experience in China. Apart from blocking over 2600 websites and searches, the Great Firewall also imposes a serious bottleneck on speed. There have been rumors that the Internet is especially slow on Sundays. Analyzing more than 80,000 tests executed by our system from March to November this year, our data seems to confirm this suspicion.

The tests consist of downloading the front page of each of the world's 500 most popular websites, as defined by Alexa. Apart from aberrations in March and June, download speeds on Sundays have consistently been between 8 and 25% slower than the average of the other days of the week. Here's the full test data summary (all speeds in bytes/second):

MonthMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySundaySunday relative to other daysNumber of tests
Mar, 201122,89823,00726,17825,56025,35623,96827,35312%11,032
Apr, 201130,36533,64029,14133,20632,96929,68927,953-11%17,775
May, 201132,69128,67636,20130,09229,45529,13025,814-17%5,889
Jun, 201121,66332,22730,50729,73628,43428,37728,8121%5,946
Jul, 201117,71928,35224,86820,98721,95522,25017,089-25%7,621
Aug, 201122,46021,47221,51620,85923,23520,24119,980-8%12,499
Sep, 201124,48522,97821,82422,17222,34519,04517,906-19%12,671
Oct, 201125,36921,41423,17222,82722,89222,57218,473-20%14,213
Nov, 201127,00024,04428,63825,64024,91025,80923,984-8%9,233
AVERAGE24,96126,20126,89425,67625,72824,56523,040-10% 

One theory why the internet would be even more restricted on Sundays is that this was the weekday chosen for the attempted Jasmine protests earlier this year. Another theory could point to Sunday being a prime day for internet users across the country to download music and movie files or to consume online media, which would explain why Saturday is the second slowest day of the week. Also, the authorities might prioritize speed on weekdays in order to allow companies somewhat better Internet access.

It is also important to note that the internet has been getting slower compared to speeds earlier this year.

Have you also experienced the slow Sunday phenomenon? Please add your comments below.

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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.

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.
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Comments

I'm wondering whether you have any data on whether it has become slower to access Chinese websites from outside of China over the past year or so. I live outside of China and it has become painfully slow for me to stream videos from Chinese video-sharing sites like Tudou and Youku. Even sites like Baidu Baike and Baidu Tieba, which are mostly text with images, have become somewhat laggy. I've been wondering whether the problem lies on my end (e.g. with my ISP) or if it's part of a wider pattern.

Hi Blaise. The GFW works both ways. Accessing Chinese websites from abroad is artificially slow, just as accessing foreign websites from China is. Exactly how much slower I can't say. But we do have the data, since all URLs tested by our system are tested both from China and from the US. So it's just a matter of collecting it and creating a graph. On the to-do list. Great question!

Thanks for the reply! That's interesting to hear.

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