Small step for Microsoft - huge improvement for Chinese users is again redirecting users in China to websites controlled by Chinese companies. This time, however, all user calls, chats and login information are encrypted and being communicated directly to Microsoft via HTTPS. This is a complete about face for Microsoft from the Tom Skype era, when all information was processed by Tom and stored by Tom on servers located in China with absolutely no privacy controls in place.

We praise Microsoft for making this change. We hope this is a harbinger of change to come not just from Microsoft but from all major internet players. It appears that Microsoft is indeed fighting back against censorship in China. We have been very critical of Microsoft and Skype in the past but today we applaud this development.

We still want to ask Microsoft to explain the differences between the Chinese and international versions of Skype. Does the new China version of Skype have more surveillance capabilities than the global version? We would also like the company to reference the specific “Chinese regulations” that they plan on following with their new joint venture partner.

The newly launched joint GMF-Skype website offers a special Chinese version download  which was launched in a partnership with Guangming Founder (GMF).

This version is different from the international version of Skype that supports Chinese. The file is hosted by the Chinese joint venture partner in a server located in China. However, unlike its previous joint venture arrangement with Tom, it would appear that Microsoft has taken full control of the China version of Skype. The software is digitally signed by Microsoft, which means Microsoft and Microsoft alone is responsible for the software’s code. The Chinese authorities cannot provide counterfeit software to users in China.


Analysis of the current Chinese version of Skype

We’ve analyzed the communications the special Chinese clients make. All communications are outside of China and are located in Singapore, the U.S and Ireland. Tom Skype was notorious for monitoring chat history and uploading user information but it seems that with the current GMF-Skype version, there are no censored keywords.



A breakdown of Skype download urls appears below. The appendix “gmw” refers to the name of Microsoft’s joint venture partner on Skype. This, too, is a special version, numbered “”. The China version of Skype for Windows users is hosted on the special GMF-Skype website for China.


OS Version Download Address
China Windows

International Windows

China Mac OS

International Mac OS


The GMF help center states that the GMF version of Skype offers end to end encryption. The policy is a direct translation of the Skype international privacy policy.

使用Skype 安全吗: 完全安全。Skype 采用了端对端的加密方式,保证信息的安全性. Skype在信息(语音、即时消息、文件)发送之前进行加密,在接收到的时候进行解密,即使在数据传输过程中需要经过其他节点进行中转,也完全没有可能在中途被窃听。

In the meantime, changed its page title from “Skype简体中文版官方网站 (Official website of Skype Chinese version)”

to “Skype充值中心 (Skype Refill Center)”. The site does indeed offer pre-paid refill cards for Tom Skype.  

The only link Tom took down is the login page for Tom-Skype:

as opposed to:

The Tom Skype web site ( is, at the time of publishing this story, not redirecting users or offering a link to the new version of Skype which suggests that Tom’s split with Microsoft was not amicable. We strongly suggest that all Tom Skype users immediately delete their current versions and upgrade to the new GMF-Skype. Microsoft should also make an effort to trumpet their newest version of Skype to users based in China.



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Tue, Jul 05, 2016 now testing VPN speed and stability in China

There is a commonly held belief in China that if you have a VPN that works then you should keep quiet about it. In terms of freedom of access to information, the problem with this approach is that access to knowledge suddenly is a secret. Today we are launching a project that we hope will destroy that model.

Our newest website, Circumvention Central (CC), aims to provide real-time information and data about circumvention solutions that work in China. Since 2011, we have been collecting data about blocked websites in China and now we will add data about the effectiveness of VPNs and other circumvention tools.

We are launching CC with four main objectives in mind.

Our first objective is to help to grow the number of Chinese who circumvent censorship restrictions in China. By sharing our information and data about these tools, we hope to show a wider audience which circumvention tools are working.

Our second objective is to improve the circumvention experience for users in China by bringing transparency to tool performance. We will measure these tools on speed (how quickly popular websites are loaded) and on stability (the extent to which popular websites load successfully).

Sat, May 07, 2016

The New York Times vs. The Chinese Authorities

Could the New York Times be setting the best path forward for news organizations in China?

Thu, Feb 18, 2016

From the desk of Lu Wei: Apple, encryption and China

Lu Wei, Director of the Cyberspace Administration of China, offers some friendly help to FBI Director James Comey.

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.

After Google found these unauthorized certificates, both Google and Firefox revoked its trust in CNNIC a few days later, a development we at have adovacting for since 2013. Apple and Microsoft on the other hand, did not revoke their trust in CNNIC, nor did they make any announcements regarding the security compromise.

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.

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