Small step for Microsoft - huge improvement for Chinese users

Skype.com 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 6.11.99.102

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 “6.11.99.455”. The China version of Skype for Windows users is hosted on the special GMF-Skype website for China.

 

OS Version Download Address
China Windows 6.11.99.102

http://skype.gmw.cn/software/SkypeSetupFull.6.11.99.102.exe

International Windows 6.11.0.102

http://www.skype.com/go/getskype

China Mac OS 6.11.99.455

http://www.skype.com/go/getskype-macosx-gmf

International Mac OS 6.11.59.455

http://www.skype.com/go/getskype-macosx

    

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, skype.tom.com 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:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:l_pObCn6T6YJ:skype....

as opposed to:

http://skype.tom.com/

The Tom Skype web site (skype.tom.com) 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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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

目前国际版的 Skype 最新版本好像是 6.11.59.102

http://www.skype.com/go/getskype-full 轻松下载国际版Skype独立安装程序,初装、升级都用它,哈哈。

http://www.skype.com/go/getskype-full 轻松下载国际版Skype独立安装程序,初装、升级都用它,哈哈。

http://www.skype.com/go/getskype-full 轻松下载国际版Skype独立安装程序,初装、升级都用它,哈哈。

http://www.skype.com/go/getskype-full 轻松下载国际版Skype独立安装程序,初装、升级都用它,哈哈。

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