The Great Cannon of China

April 16th, 2015

China is expanding it’s censorship of free speech from within it’s own boundaries to the rest of the internet.  Perhaps frustrated that it’s very difficult to control access to data on the internet even when you throw unlimited resources at firewalls and content filters, they have adopted a new tactic.  It’s a very worrying one, and although only a few sites have been affected so far it’s entirely conceivable that they could extend this tactic to any other website they wish – perhaps sites that give access to UK and US TV for example like this.

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The tactic is much more aggressive and centers around something dubbed the ‘Great Cannon of China’, however although a censorship tool it doesn’t actually block anything.   The ‘cannon’ is used to bring down specific websites using a Denial of service attack.  It essentially works by hijacking legitimate traffic (in this example it was the Chinese Search engine – Baidu) and redirect it towards the offending web site.   The first evidence was directed towards the Greatfire.org which is a site which specifically monitors Chinese censorship and provides information on how to cirucmvent them using things like iPad VPNs and proxies.

It’s a very aggressive approach is it’s true and state sponsored, unfortunately it’s a very effective tool.  The reality is that not many web sites are capable of withstanding an attack on this scale, the Chinese monitoring site was completely swamped and unable to cope.   Even when they were able to cope with the traffic on their 4 mirror sites it meant that the bandwidth bills have cost the site thousands of dollars in extra costs.

It would be hoped that the Chinese Government will be roundly criticised for this aggressive censorship to countries and sites hosted outside it’s borders.  One of the big problems though is that the UK and US governments have already developed similar internet weapons with the same capabilities, although there is currently no hard evidence that these have been deployed.  Only the larger and popular sites will probably come onto the media radar however, smaller sites swamped by the traffic or the resulting web costs will probably just sink from view and disappear along with whatever opinions the Chinese authorities disliked