The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced a major crackdown on VPN services, which encrypt Internet traffic in order to let its citizens have access to websites blocked by the country’s “Great Firewall.”
The Ministry stated that “all special cable and VPN services on the mainland needed to obtain prior government approval” according a translation provided by the South China Morning Post, a move making most VPN service providers in the country of 730 million Internet users illegal.
The so-called “clean up” of the Chinese internet connections would start immediately and continue through March 31st of 2018. The Chinese announcement has stated that their internet service market “has signs of disordered development that requires urgent regulation and governance” and that the crackdown is needed to “strengthen cyberspace information security management.” It is well noted that hundreds of thousands, if not millions in China rely on VPNs to access Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Dropbox, The Pirate Bay, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, amongst many others.
Some are alleging that this tightening of Chinese Internet freedoms — and thus freedom of speech — is in preparation for this fall’s 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, when the new Party leadership shall be elected.
Many people also use VPN’s and other such methods of protection like Tor and I2P in order to circumvent government censorship. It seems as if the authoritarian Chinese government has figured that out as well and has banned most private VPN operators, and has required permission from the Chinese government to operate within mainland China.
Other than the aforementioned VPN crackdown, China had shut down “two websites run by a liberal Chinese think tank” and 15 other websites, as reported by the South China Morning Post.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are crucial for security, privacy, and even performance. They allow you to have your network traffic tunneled through a server to appear as if it is coming from somewhere other than where you actually are. They enable users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices are directly connected to the private network.
You can find VPNs online for free, pay for them as a service, or even build them yourself. Even the average computer user can benefit from use of a VPN; robust firewalls stop malicious addresses from gaining direct access to phones, laptops, and other devices upon request from certain staff. It also compresses the data so it can be delivered a little bit faster.
If a malicious black hat hacker is sniffing out traffic that is publicly available, he can steal your information or identity from the unencrypted information that you are transmitting over their public Wi-Fi. A VPN can help aid in the prevention of such a scenario as it will send all that traffic via an encrypted link to your server, which would then transmit it to the outside world.
Photo: Jiang Shangou/Dongfang IC