GreatFire August: New York Times Articles Blocked

Many Blocked New York Times Articles

The Chinese edition of the New York Times - http://cn.nytimes.com - is not blocked. However, numerous individual articles are. We are now automatically importing all articles in their China section into our system for testing. You can view them all here. It does not seem that URLs are blocked based on keywords. For example http://cn.nytimes.com/article/china/2012/07/10/c10wang is blocked whereas http://cn.nytimes.com/article/china/2012/08/18/c18wang is not. This suggests that the authorities are manually reviewing each article to decide whether it should be allowed or blocked.

New Blocked Keywords

These keywords were not blocked in China before August 2012. From sometime in August and onwards, they have all been blocked. Many of them are variants of 胡 as in 胡锦涛 (Hu Jintao, the current president of China who is expected to hand over power to his successor this year).

  1. google: 绿爸爸
  2. google: 绿坝娘
  3. google: 军队国家化
  4. google: 赛风
  5. google: psiphon
  6. weibo: 小胡
  7. weibo: 王安顺
  8. weibo: 胡总看到女兵
  9. weibo: 胡恩
  10. weibo: 胡曾结盟
  11. weibo: 胡达拜尔地
  12. weibo: 胡雯靖
  13. weibo: 胡雯靖
  14. weibo: 无网界浏览

Unblocked Keywords

These keywords were all blocked in China before August 2012. From sometime in August and onwards, they have all been unblocked. They include the Wikipedia articles about Boxun and Twitter which are now accessible in China; the websites they refer to (http://boxun.com and http://twitter.com) are still fully blocked though. It is interesting to note that 天线宝宝 (the Chinese translation for the popular children's television show "Teletubbies") was unblocked.  Some Chinese use 天线宝宝 to refer 温家宝, the current Premier of China. Perhaps this is a concession to the start of the school year?

  1. google: tyanmen
  2. en.wikipedia: Boxun.com
  3. zh.wikipedia: Twitter
  4. weibo: 仁怀
  5. weibo: 代理服务器
  6. weibo: 功法
  7. weibo: 北京 死亡
  8. weibo: 启东
  9. weibo: 天线宝宝
  10. weibo: 市长
  11. weibo: 布局
  12. weibo: 死亡人数
  13. weibo: 薄格
  14. weibo: 近平
  15. weibo: 通报

More On Game Censorship

Last month, we detected that some games were added as restricted words on Weibo and Taobao. Recently it was reported that adapting online games as TV shows is forbidden. This is just one of six rules that the State Administration of Radio Film and Television published this month.

Xinhuanet

Xinhuanet is the English translation of 新华社, the official press agency of China and is now blocked on Weibo weibo: xinhuanet and has stayed blocked since. It was blocked on Google google: xinhuanet on Aug 13th and unblocked shortly after. This suggests that this is a government decision rather than self-censorship imposed by Sina. The English version of Xinhuanet http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/ has much looser censorship compared to the Chinese version http://www.xinhuanet.com.

Google And Baidu

The IP http://74.125.71.132 of http://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com, which is the Gmail attachment server, was blocked at the begining of this month. If an email with an attachment was opened in China, Gmail will show an "Attachments might be unavailable" message.  However http://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com was unblocked at the end of this month because the server IP was changed to http://74.125.128.132 . Many Chinese use Gmail to get around Internet censorship because email providers in China will filter email when restricted words are detected, e.g. get@psiphon3.com.

https://encrypted.google.com was not DNS poisoned during a short interval on August 29. However,  visitors in China still could not use it because Google would redirect them to encrypted.google.com.hk which doesn't exist. We'll determine whether this redirection is for Mainland China only.

On August 23, netizens in Fujian province found that www.baidu.com was redirected to google. It was suspected that the DNS in Fujian was hijacked during that time.

Baidu started to block other search engines from accessing its data.

Censorship On Websites Inside China

http://Solidot.org , the Chinese version of http://slashdot.org, has been posting many stories about Internet censorship. Off-shore websites would be blocked for much less mention of this subject. It's a wonder that Solidot, whose servers are located in Beijing and therefore cannot be blocked, have not been forcefully taken down. They continue to post news about censorship. Posts on other Chinese media such as Sina and Nandu Daily have been taken down for much milder violations.

http://www.vpn123.com, a China based VPN provider (with web servers in Hong Kong) sells both a Chinese VPN and an off-shore VPN which could be used to circumvent the Great Firewall of China. It is both keyword filtered and DNS poisoned. Interestingly, http://www.ffvpn.com, a mirror of vpn123 on Chinese servers has been in operation since March of this year and not been taken down.

Censorship of P2P software

It was reported that the Great Firewall of China (GFW) has started to block Protocol Obfuscation connections to central servers of Emule to force plain-text connections to central servers. This now allows the GFW the ability to censor according to keywords.

Other

Several, very different, websites were blocked/unblocked in August. Chinese netizens can no longer read Western celebrity gossip at http://tmz.com (blocked), but they can check out foreign video clips at http://metacafe.com (unblocked) . Lastly, the German site http://gutefrage.net was unblocked in August.

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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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