Google.com blocked in China

Today, Nov 9, 2012, http://www.google.com and http://www.google.com.hk were blocked in China. It's the first time since we started tracking online censorship in China in February last year that this has happened. Here's what we know:

  1. The subdomains http://www.google.com, http://mail.google.com, http://google-analytics.com, http://docs.google.com, http://drive.google.com, http://maps.google.com, http://play.google.com and perhaps many more are all currently DNS poisoned in China. Instead of the real IP addresses, any lookups from China to any of these domains result in the following IP: 59.24.3.173. That IP address is located in Korea and doesn't serve any website at all.
  2. This means that none of these websites, including Google Search, currently work in China, unless you have a VPN or other cirumvention tool.
  3. Using a DNS server outside of China doesn't help. A lookup of www.google.com to 8.8.8.8 is also distorted, by the Great Firewall.
  4. So far you can still access other country versions of Google such as www.google.co.uk.

You can see an overview of different Google sites here: https://en.greatfire.org/search/google-sites. You can choose any of them and test them in real time to stay updated.

Affecting more users than ever

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were all blocked before they attracted more than a small number of users in China. We've argued before that the authorities didn't dare to fully block GMail since it has too many users already. Fully blocking Google goes much further. Google Search is only the second search engine in China (after Baidu) but with an online population of more than 500 million that still leaves it with many millions of daily users. According to Alexa, it's the Top 5 most used website in China. Never before have so many people been affected by a decision to block a website. If Google stays blocked, many more people in China will become aware of the extent of censorship. How will they react? Will there be protests? Check out reactions by Weibo users on FreeWeibo

Temporary or permanent?

The Communist Party of China is currently holding its 18th Party Congress in which new leaders of the party and the country are formally chosen. The fact that Google is blocked now is surely no coincidence. The big question is whether it will be unblocked again once the congress is over. We will closely monitor developments. 

By the way.. Analytics

The fact that http://www.google-analytics.com and https://www.google-analytics.com are blocked doesn't just mean that you can't access the web interface in China. It means that visits by Chinese users won't be tracked by Google anymore. Foreign websites using Google Analytics to track their visitors will currently track 0 users coming from China, whether or not their website itself is blocked.

What to do?

Many VPNs and other circumvention tools have been working poorly or not at all in the last few days. The free iPhone app OpenDoor is still working, though it has also suffered glitches recently. Another method of accessing Google Search is to use one of their other country versions such as http://www.google.co.uk https://www.google.co.uk or http://www.google.ca https://www.google.ca. These may also be blocked of course.

You can also access Google directly using one of their IP addresses. These don't appear to be blocked (yet). Here are some:

Follow us on Twitter to stay updated to the latest developments of online censorship in China.

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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.

Mon, Jan 19, 2015

Outlook grim - Chinese authorities attack Microsoft

On January 17, we received reports that Microsoft’s email system, Outlook (which was merged with Hotmail in 2013), was subjected to a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack in China.

The following screenshot shows what happens when a Chinese user accesses Outlook via an email client (in this case, Ice-dove):

We have tested Outlook to verify the attack and have produced the same results. IMAP and SMTP for Outlook were under a MITM attack. Do note however that the web interfaces (https://outlook.com and https://login.live.com/ ) were not affected. The attack lasted for about a day and has now ceased.

This form of attack is especially devious because the warning messages users receive from their email clients are much less noticeable than the warning messages delivered to modern browsers (see screenshot at the end of this post for comparison).

(Sample error message from default iPhone mail client)

Fri, Jan 09, 2015

GFW upgrade fail - visitors to blocked sites redirected to porn

In the past, the Chinese authorities’ DNS poisoning system would direct Chinese internet users who were trying to access Facebook, Twitter and other blocked websites (without the use of a circumvention tool) to a set of fake IP addresses that are blocked in China or are non-existent. After waiting for some time, Chinese internet users would receive a timeout message if they were trying to access a blocked site.

However, with the new DNS poisoning system, in addition to those IP addresses used before, the Chinese authorities are using real IP addresses that actually host websites and are accessible in China. For example, https://support.dnspod.cn/Tools/tools/ shows that if a user tries to access Facebook from China, they might instead land on a random web page, e.g. http://178.62.75.99

Below is a screenshot by a Chinese user when he was trying to access our GreatFire.org website which was blocked in China. He was redirected to a goverment site in Korea. In essense, GFW is sending Chinese users to DDOS the Korea government's website.

One Chinese Internet user reported to us that when he tried to access Facebook in China, he was sent to a Russian website, unrelated to Facebook. Another user tweeted that he was redirected to an German adult site when he tried to access a website for a VPN.

某墙你这什么意思,DNS 污染返回给我一个德国工口站的 IP,满屏很黄很暴力弹弹弹(

— nil (@xierch) January 4, 2015

Wed, Dec 31, 2014

CNNIC leadership change coincides with blocking of Gmail

On December 26, 2014, in an announcement posted on their website, a new chairperson for CNNIC was directly appointed by the Cyberspace Administration of China. The announcement of this appointment coincided with the complete blocking of Gmail.

Cyberspace Administration of China (中央网信办) is chaired by Lu Wei, “China’s web doorkeeper”. Lu Wei is also the vice chair of the Central Propaganda Department, according to his official resume.

chair.png

This office is directly responsible for the blocking of Gmail and other websites including Facebook, Twitter and Google.

CNNIC is China’s certification authority and operates the country’s domain name registry. 

What are certificates used for?

Certificates are used primarily to verify the identity of a person or device, authenticate a service, or encrypt files. 

What is a certification authority (CA)?  

Tue, Dec 30, 2014

Gmail completely blocked in China

All Google products in China have been severely disrupted since June of this year and Chinese users have not been able to access Gmail via its web interface since the summer. However, email protocols such as IMAP, SMTP and POP3 had been accessible but are not anymore. These protocols are used in the default email app on iPhone, Microsoft Outlook on PC and many more email clients.

On December 26, GFW started to block large numbers of IP addresses used by Gmail. These IP addresses are used by IMAP/SMTP/POP3. Chinese users now have no way of accessing Gmail behind the GFW. Before, they could still send or receive emails via email clients even though Gmail's web interface was not accessible. 

Google's own traffic chart shows a sharp decline of Chinese traffic to Gmail. 

Below is a ping request to the Gmail SMTP server, which is completely inaccessible in China.

 

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Comments

my biggest beef is that translate.google.com was also down for quite significant amount of time. Now, since I was a mere mortal without sophisticated network monitoring algorithms at hand, trying to do some work, i couldn't tell how long it was out for. But i swear that it was down for quite some time. Which was pissing me off -- i mean, translate.google.com. Are you serious???

I believe you're right. Since China poisoned "*.google.com" which would also match translate.google.com subdomain.

Thanks for your workarounds. However, none work at this time, November 12, at 20:42

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