China’s Great Firewall

Beginning in 1989, the People’s Republic of China, ruled by the Communist Party of China mandated censorship. Subjects varied over the many years, yet in the early 2000’s an internet censorship system was developed. The system is often referred to as the “The Great Firewall of China” and has blocked numerous sites and keywords, including the following (to name some); Google (Search, Google +, Maps, Docs, Drive, Sites, Picasa), Youtube. Facebook, Twitter, and Dropbox. Simply, the firewall is being used to block access to material critical of the Chinese government and control what information can be found on the internet (CNET). Recently, the filtering has become more strict so that officials may block unwanted material and services and it is now becoming more difficult for those who understand the use of VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) and their services to access websites. (Example: Astrill). In 2012, China temporarily cut VPN access almost completely, despite now it has not taken on any extreme actions. According to the Washington Post it is unclear whether it is because the government officials widely use these services or if it fears the public backlash. With this control of internet traffic and services, the effect has left businesses suffering with accessibility and research / use of data. Not only did it affect China, it affected the United States IT companies, especially Microsoft.

China may be dealing with a censorship, but what does that mean for us? This rise of censorship is becoming a concern for Internet users elsewhere in the world. With the heightened development of this firewall, web browsers all over the world trust the Chinese government to tell it which websites are genuine, leaving matters dangerous as Chinese hackers target foreign web services to steal user data. An example of this was the most recent hack on Microsoft Outlook.
About a week ago, foreign business groups including the American Chamber of Commerce in China and the US Chamber of Commerce wrote to the Chinese government protesting new rules that would force companies in banking and telecommunication sectors to use secure and controllable IT services in which the Chinese government have the ability to monitor which threatens to widen restrictions and includes security testing of intellectual property (local encryption algorithms) that comply with Chinese national standards, and limit the flow of cross-border commercial data. To anyone who obtains the keys, the hardware and software become vulnerable to Chinese hackers within the international companies. All of this essentially means is that the Internet may no longer be immune and turn against users anywhere in the world, giving governments the ability to take control by the use of source code and keys.