China Reinforces its Great Firewall, VPN Services Suffer further Disruptions
China is blocking Internet services that allow people to skirt online censorship of various websites and apps from within the country, said providers. Three popular services that are particularly affected include Virtual Private Network (VPN) providers Golden Frog, Astrill and StrongVPN.
Golden Frog, which operates the service VyprVPN, wrote on its blog that the controls seem to have hit a wide range of VPN services causing severe disruptions this week.
“The Chinese government has attempted to curtail the use of VPNs that its citizens use to escape the Great Firewall for a couple years,” wrote Golden Frog President Sunday Yokubaitis in a statement. “This week’s attack on VPNs that affected us and other VPN providers is more sophisticated than what we’ve seen in the past.”
Astrill said that the attack blocked certain VPN protocols “in almost real-time” in China. The provider also informed its users this week that the controls have started affecting iPhone users’ access to services such as Gmail.
Other prominent VPN services also noted signs of disruptions, but claimed their service is working as usual. ExpressVPN said they are operating normally on all platforms, including for China customers.
The Chinese government blocks thousands of websites amid a wider crackdown on online information which it deems politically sensitive. Censors prevent such information from reaching Chinese users and maintain a tight grip on what can and cannot be published online to safeguard the ruling Communist party from any potential threat.
Many foreigners and millions of Chinese have to rely on VPNs to access websites and services that are normally blocked in the country, including Google-based business tools, Facebook and Twitter.
Google services have been facing periodic restrictions in China since 2010 when the search giant refused to cooperate with the China’s censors. During the recent crackdown, the authorities even blocked what the remaining access there is to Gmail and other Google products.
While the larger corporations can afford direct connections to the blocked online information and tools, the controls would particularly hurt a number of small-sized companies that depend on VPNs to conduct their business.
The Chinese Internet regulating agency did not immediately respond to questions related to the VPN disruptions.