Internet Censorship in China or “The Great Firewall of China”

As some of you may have heard there is a block on China’s access to information. The Chinese government blocks all forms of communication that they feel is necessary but in this article I am going to only refer to the internet side of things. If you don’t already know blocking access to certain sites or servers on the internet is referred to as internet censorship. Internet censorship in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is technically overseen by the Ministry of Information Industry (MII).

 

The “The Great Firewall of China”
The great firewall of China is a term that is passed around in the media a lot but in reality it is nothing more than a reference to something bigger, which is internet censorship in China. This censorship that occurs in China is very easy for a hacker or advanced user to bypass. The great firewall of China is not very successful in the since of keeping the hackers or advanced users out but it is very successful socially. What I mean by it being successful socially is that it is able to keep the majority of the people or users out. If you live somewhere else in the world and you ever travel to China you will notice that when you sit down at just about any computer most of the content will be blocked. This means that you will have to use a proxy server or a mixed routing network to get around this. I personally would recommend using Tor if you are in China but even with Tor there are problems (as I describe below). If you do not live in China and you are curious about what websites are blocked then you can visit GreatFirewallofChina.org or vpnMentor.com to see what sites are blocked in different parts of China. This site has servers in Beijing, Shenzhen, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang Province, and Yunnan Province which are on China’s standard ISPs and backbones that attempt to access the site(s) that you give them.

 

How the Chinese Government Censors Their Users
The Chinese government has several different methods of controlling what information comes and goes out of the country. If you are a system administrator then you probably already know most of the methods that they use to block their users, you just have probably not seen it done at this level before.

Routers
Routers, if you don’t already know, route information between multiple networks or subnets. Without these routers the internet would cease to exist. One way the Chinese government blocks information from the rest of the world is by reconfiguring these routers to allow or deny certain traffic. If they know that there is activity coming from a certain website they don’t like then they will simply block all of the IP’s that point to the website’s webserver. This is done at the backbone and ISP level.

Content Filters
Content filters are filters that restrict certain websites or services based on keywords that are in the content. These content filters are very useful when it comes to businesses or employers trying to keep their employees off social networking sites or at schools where the administrators are trying to keep their students off age inappropriate sites. However when you deploy something like this in an entire country it takes censorship to another whole level. There are many different types of content filters out there such as SmartFilter which was developed by Secure Computing. China however uses their own content filtering software to censor their internet. This type of censorship is also done at the backbone and ISP level.

How to Bypass the Great Firewall of China
There are a lot of different methods that hackers or advanced users might use to bypass China’s censorship. I will describe some of the most common ones.

 

Proxy Servers
If you are in China then you can connect to a proxy server to bypass the censorship. If you don’t already know a proxy server is an internet relay which can hide the identity of its users. There are a lot of different types of proxy servers because they have been around for quite some time. The best type of proxy server to use for this situation is an anonymous proxy. An anonymous proxy is a proxy server which its only goals are to hide the identity of its users and act as a relay for information. There are a lot of open proxies that you can simply connect to but they tend to be very slow and because of that not very usable. This is one of the reasons why I would not recommend using a regular single hop proxy in this situation. Another reason I would not recommend using a single hop proxy is because these are only single hop proxies which means that your computer connects to them and then goes to the destination out on the internet. Most if not all of the open proxies get blocked in China very quickly. This also only takes into account a privacy by policy approach to the systems engineering process not privacy by design.

 

Anonymity Networks
If I were in China this is the approach that I would take to bypassing the great firewall of China. I would use Tor or an anonymity network like it to route the information that I am trying to access. If you don’t know what Tor is then I would recommend that you read my article Tor an Anonymity Network. Tor takes into account a privacy by design approach to the systems engineering process. Using Tor alone will not get you around China’s censorship. You will have to use a bridge or another proxy server before you connect to the Tor network. Bridges are a part of the Tor network but they are not publicly listed in Tor’s directory authorities, which means they are essentially private. Bridges just like any other Tor node are run by regular people or companies who understand the value that Tor brings to the internet. Bridges are pretty simple to connect to and use. PJHoodsCo owns and operates Tor bridges, Tor relays, and Tor exit relays. If you are in China and need to use a Tor bridge then you are more than welcome to use one of ours. PJHoodsCo backs the Tor project 100% and we believe that everyone should have the right to read and speak freely on the internet. EVERYONE! We believe that there should be NO exception to this. To see a list of public Tor bridges that PJHoodsCo owns and operates click here. If you cannot use one of our public bridges because they have already been blocked then you can contact us by filling out the form on our Tor bridges page or by sending an email to needabridge@pjhoodsco.org and we will send you the information on one of our private bridges. There are also other methods that you can use to get Tor bridges like by sending an email from a Google or Yahoo account to bridges@torproject.org and setting the Subject and Body of the email to “get bridges”. After that they will respond with a few IP’s addresses and port numbers of Tor bridges. Then all you have to do is plug that information into your Tor Browser Bundle (TBB) or your Torc file and you are good to go. If you are in China then you will not be able to access the Tor project’s website to download Tor so you will have to send an email to gettor@gettor.torproject.org to get the software. The Subject of the email can be blank but in the Body of the email you can use words such as ‘help’ to get instructions. Using the word ‘help’ in the Body of the email will also send the most current set of choices but if you want to be more specific then you can just put something like ‘windows-bundle’ which will send you only the most recent version of Tor for Windows.

 

Thank you all for taking the time to read this post and as always God bless!

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Preston Hood
Hello, my name is Preston Hood. I am the owner of PJHoodsCo, an Information Technology Service Provider (ITSP). I am also a freelance writer and information security researcher.
Preston Hood

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Comments

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