GreatFire August: New York Times Articles Blocked

Many Blocked New York Times Articles

The Chinese edition of the New York Times - - 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 is blocked whereas 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 ( and 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:
  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 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 has much looser censorship compared to the Chinese version

Google And Baidu

The IP of, 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 was unblocked at the end of this month because the server IP was changed to . Many Chinese use Gmail to get around Internet censorship because email providers in China will filter email when restricted words are detected, e.g. [email protected]. 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 which doesn't exist. We'll determine whether this redirection is for Mainland China only.

On August 23, netizens in Fujian province found that 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 , the Chinese version of, 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., 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,, 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.


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


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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 to download Xcode.

Mon, Sep 21, 2015



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 

Wed, Sep 16, 2015



Roya, David, Nick, nweaver, Vern, 和我刚刚完成了关于GFW主动探测系统的研究。这个系统在几年前就被用来探测翻墙工具,比如Tor。我们在之前的博文中介绍过GFW主动探测系统是如何工作的。但有几个问题我们没有回答。比如这个系统的物理结构是怎样的。那些用来主动探测的IP是归GFW所有的么? 有猜测GFW短时间内劫持了部分IP来用来主动探测,但没有证据。这次研究回答了这些问题。


  • 通常来说,如果Tor的某个网桥代理被GFW检测并封锁,它会一直被封锁。但是这意味着网桥代理完全无法访问吗? 我们让中国的VPS一直连接我们控制的网桥代理。我们发现,每25小时,中国的VPS可以短暂的连接到我们的代理网桥。下图显示了这个现象。每个数据点表示中国的VPS试图与网桥代理建立连接。中国联通和中国教育网都有这个周期性现象。有时候,网络安全设备在更新规则时会默认允许所有流量,但我们不知道GFW周期性现象是不是因为这个原因导致的。

  • 我们找到了规律,GFW主动探测的TCP头暗示那几千个IP都来自与同一个地方。下图显示了数据包的初始序号和时间。每个数据点都是一个主动探测连接。如果每个主动探测都是从不同地方发出的,我们应该看到随机的数据点,因为数据包的初始序号是随机选择的。但是下图显示主动探测连接虽然来自不同IP,但是非常有规律。我们认为主动探测的初始序号是按照时间产生的。


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