Is China establishing cyber sovereignty in the United States?

Last week Twitter came under attack from a DDoS attack orchestrated by the Chinese authorities. While such attacks are not uncommon for websites like Twitter, this one proved unusual. While the Chinese authorities use the Great Firewall to block harmful content from reaching its citizens, it now uses DDoS attacks to take down content that appears on websites beyond its borders. For the Chinese authorities, it is not simply good enough to “protect” the interests of Chinese citizens at home - in their view of cyber sovereignty, any content that might harm China’s interests must be removed, regardless of where the website is located.

And so last week the Chinese authorities determined that Twitter was the target. In particular, the authorities targeted the Twitter account for Guo Wengui (https://twitter.com/KwokMiles), the rebel billionaire who is slowly leaking information about corrupt Chinese government officials via his Twitter account and through his YouTube videos. Guo appeared to ramp up his whistle-blowing efforts last week and the Chinese authorities, in turn, ramped up theirs.

via https://twitter.com/KwokMiles/status/863689935798374401

No details have emerged on attacks against his YouTube channel, but Guo did share tweets about the attack on his Twitter account, including unverified correspondence from a Twitter engineer. (We reached out to Twitter for comment but have not heard back from them at the time of publication.) In this correspondence, the engineer details the measures that Twitter had to take to thwart the attack, including adding hundreds of servers, blocking IP addresses from China and redirecting traffic from the desktop Twitter site to the mobile site. The engineer expresses surprise at the scale and the force of the attack. Users who were logged into Twitter could still view Guo’s account. However, those who were not logged in only saw an error page. Late last week, the attack subsided and Guo’s account returned to normal.

via https://twitter.com/KwokMiles/status/863689004390260736

This is not the first time that the Chinese authorities have flooded websites with unwanted traffic as a means of taking them offline. In March 2015, GreatFire came under a similar attack. Citizen Lab subsequently coined the weapon the Great Cannon.

Since March 2015, it is unknown how many times the Chinese authorities have launched similar attacks against foreign websites. But this attack gives us a clearer idea of China’s vision of cyber sovereignty. Chinese censorship efforts have escalated in a way that destroys the traditional narrative surrounding Chinese information control. This new style of attack also makes it harder to detect Chinese censorship efforts.

China is now not simply content with blocking foreign websites. It is almost certain that the blocking of Twitter’s live streaming app Periscope last week was related to these attempts to silence Guo Wengui. The blocking of websites in China is so commonplace now that the censorship of Periscope barely registered. Now nobody is surprised when a website gets blocked and this blasé reaction is playing directly into the hands of the Chinese authorities. Website blocks are now seen as boring and simply part of China’s continuing effort to establish cyber sovereignty.

But this non-reaction to Chinese censorship is helping to pave the way for a new breed of Chinese censorship. Why is nobody outraged that China is attacking Twitter and other foreign websites? When did it become okay for the Chinese authorities to establish cyber sovereignty in other parts of the world? It is understandable that Twitter may not want to draw attention to this episode (lest they encourage others to launch similar attacks) but why is there no public outcry otherwise? Is everybody trying to curry favour with the Chinese authorities? Does nobody want to wake the sleeping dragon?

Most importantly, why is there no retaliation? Tit-for-tat cyber attacks are not optimal but surely the US government should have a vested interest in making sure that American companies do not get sabotaged by foreign powers. At the very least, the current President should be alarmed that his preferred communications medium is under threat. While Obama and Xi agreed to lay off economic cyber espionage, why are China’s attempts to take a hostile Twitter account offline and the blocking of the company’s sister property not considered to be economic “dirty tricks”? How much longer are we going to continue to tolerate the aggression of the Chinese authorities in cyberspace?

 

Comments

More Blog Posts

Subscribe to our mailing list
Show content from Blog | Google+ | Twitter | All. Subscribe to our blog using RSS.

Mon, Dec 12, 2016

China is the obstacle to Google’s plan to end internet censorship

It’s been three years since Eric Schmidt proclaimed that Google would chart a course to ending online censorship within ten years. Now is a great time to check on Google’s progress, reassess the landscape, benchmark Google’s efforts against others who share the same goal, postulate on the China strategy and offer suggestions on how they might effectively move forward.

flowers on google china plaque

Flowers left outside Google China’s headquarters after its announcement it might leave the country in 2010. Photo: Wikicommons.

What has Google accomplished since November 2013?

The first thing they have accomplished is an entire rebranding of both Google (now Alphabet) and Google Ideas (now Jigsaw). Throughout this blog post, reference is made to both new and old company names.

Google has started to develop two main tools which they believe can help in the fight against censorship. Jigsaw’s DDoS protection service, Project Shield, is effectively preventing censorship-inspired DDoS attacks and recently helped to repel an attack on Brian Krebs’ blog. The service is similar to other anti-DDoS services developed by internet freedom champions and for-profit services like Cloudflare.

Thu, Nov 24, 2016

Facebook: Please, not like this

Facebook is considering launching a censorship tool that would enable the world’s biggest social network to “enter” the China market. Sadly, nobody will be surprised by anything that Mark Zuckerberg decides to do in order to enter the China market. With such low expectations, Facebook is poised to usurp Apple as China’s favorite foreign intelligence gathering partner. If the company launches in China using this strategy they will also successfully erase any bargaining power that other media organizations may hold with the Chinese authorities.

Tue, Jul 05, 2016

GreatFire.org 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.
Subscribe to our blog using RSS.

Comments

mobile. Using Mobdro Online TELEVISION application, Update Mobdro the techniques And also use Mobdro application on.

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.