China just blocked thousands of websites
The Chinese censorship authorities have DNS poisoned *edgecastcdn.net, which means all subdomains of edgecastcdn.net are blocked in China. EdgeCast is one of the largest Content Delivery Networks (CDN) in the world and provides its cloud services to thousands of websites and apps in China.
We have acknowledged all along that our method of unblocking websites using “collateral freedom” hinges on the gamble that the Chinese authorities will not block access to global CDNs because they understand the value of China being integrated with the global internet. However, we can now reveal publicly that the authorities are doing just that - attempting to cut China off from the global internet.
We have seen instances of “collateral damage” due to “collateral freedom” over the past few days and have received emails from some smaller website owners wondering why their non-sensitive sites are being blocked by the great firewall.
What's going on?
The disruption to EdgeCast’s service was noted by the company on their website on November 14, 2014, although we noticed a problem on November 12 and the first poisoning on the 13th. The company's status update still appears on their site:
Please be advised, we are experiencing issues with content delivery in the China region due to suddenly increased restrictions imposed by the Chinese Government. If you are receiving reports from end users not able to view content from within China, please contact our network Operations center to discuss the options available to you.
Some of the recent victims of collateral damage, all EdgeCast clients, include:
The Atlantic will, sadly, not be able to claim that their website was blocked due to the aggressive nature of their reporting on China.
The project website of Drupal (drupal.org) is blocked. Drupal is used as a back-end framework for many websites worldwide. Administrators of those websites in China will face disruptions when trying to update Drupal or install extensions.
Firefox browser add-ons are another victim. Firefox's addons.cdn.mozilla.net is hosted on EdgeCast. Firefox users in China will not be able to install any add-on for Firefox.
Gravatar is used by many websites to show profile images. The images are hosted on EdgeCast and any website that uses Gravatar in China will be displaying broken images. Here is what a typical Chinese user will see when accessing those websites.
Other blocked websites include speedtest.net and deviantart.com. It is hard to tell what websites may be affected because different sites might have different elements (i.e. images) that rely on EdgeCast. Anybody who appears on the EdgeCast customer list is potentially affected. Some client names appear in the screenshot below.
The great firewall (GFW) is attempting to block access to our collateral freedom mirror sites, which are hosted in the global cloud infrastructure. GFW cannot distinguish traffic to our mirror sites and other traffic to the cloud provider which means that they cannot block access to our mirror sites without blocking access to the all sites hosted by the CDN. We are forcing the authorities to make a decision between allowing uncensored access to the global internet or blocking global CDNs all together, which will come at a significant economic cost.
In the case of EdgeCast, the authorities have chosen to block access to their service altogether and as a result, they have taken down tens of thousands of websites in one foul swoop. The blocking of such a considerable number of websites in one instance will likely result in significant economic loss as many businesses will be impacted.
EdgeCast was recently acquired by Verizon, whose board directors include senior executives from companies that have made significant investments in China including Royal Dutch Shell, Proctor & Gamble and Deere & Company.
If the authorities did not anticipate what damage the blocking of EdgeCast would inflict, they have likely been alerted by the many companies that use EdgeCast in China. This action comes at a bad time for the Chinese authorities. This week, they are hosting the World Internet Conference and the blocking of EdgeCast will likely be a hot topic of discussion. We call on the Chinese authorities to lift the restrictions on EdgeCast immediately.
We have been hearing from our CDN and Monitoring partners throughout the industry and our own customers that more sites, CDNs and networks are being filtered or blocked by the Great Firewall of China. This week we’ve seen the filtering escalate with an increasing number of popular web properties impacted and even one of our many domains being partially blocked… with no rhyme or reason as to why.
At Verizon EdgeCast we have put policies in place to help our customers mitigate the effects of this most recent filtering but expect this to be an ongoing issue for our customers seeking to reach Chinese users (users in China). For any customers who are seeing their delivery impacted, please log in to your EdgeCast portal. Here you will find instructions on your portal home page on how to best mitigate filtering or blocking.
For those of our customers who are frustrated by this, we share your frustration, as does the whole content delivery and hosting industry. Rest assured that we stay committed to work with our global ISP partners and do our best to mitigate the effects of these filtering policies to ensure a clear path to your users and customers in China.