China Takes The Great Firewall Up A Notch By Blocking An Entire Content Delivery Network

from the collateral-damage dept

It is hardly news that China is blocking Web sites — it’s so common these days that it has become almost proverbial. But hitherto, it has done it in a very targeted manner so as to minimize collateral damage that might hamper its citizens’ access to other key parts of the Internet. The Greatfire.org blog is reporting that, for the first time, China has started blocking one of the Internet’s biggest content delivery networks (CDN) — EdgeCast — with major knock-on effects:

The Chinese censorship authorities have DNS poisoned *edgecastcdn.net, which means all subdomains of edgecastcdn.net are blocked in China. EdgeCast is one of the largest Content Delivery Networks (CDN) in the world and provides its cloud services to thousands of websites and apps in China.

According to the blog post, this is being done specifically to block Greatfire.org’s mirrors of sites censored in China, which are hosted in the cloud:

We have acknowledged all along that our method of unblocking websites using “collateral freedom” hinges on the gamble that the Chinese authorities will not block access to global CDNs because they understand the value of China being integrated with the global internet. However, we can now reveal publicly that the authorities are doing just that — attempting to cut China off from the global internet.

In other words, if the Greatfire.org analysis is correct, the Chinese authorities have decided that it is more important to block these cloud-based mirrors than it is to maintain access to key sites. The blog post lists Drupal.org, Mozilla’s addons.cdn.mozilla.net and Gravatar, which is used by many websites to show images, as among the important Web sites that have been affected. As Greatfire.org points out, this is not a particularly good moment to increase censorship in this way:

If the authorities did not anticipate what damage the blocking of EdgeCast would inflict, they have likely been alerted by the many companies that use EdgeCast in China. This action comes at a bad time for the Chinese authorities. This week, they are hosting the World Internet Conference and the blocking of EdgeCast will likely be a hot topic of discussion.

That might mean we will see EdgeCast being unblocked during the World Internet Conference, so as to avoid embarrassing questions being asked. But even if that does happen, we can probably expect to see the DNS poisoning to resume as soon as the delegates have packed their bags and left China.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Companies: edgecast

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Comments on “China Takes The Great Firewall Up A Notch By Blocking An Entire Content Delivery Network”

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17 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Not found!

Probably because it’s not a webpage. It’s the base part of the URL that’s used by the Edgecast network, but it will have subdomains and redirects to serve content. Edgecast’s actual website is http://www.edgecast.com/

But, if China decides to block the Edgecast distribution network, they can do so by blocking edgecastcdn.net. To give an example taken from a random Reddit group, the file http://wac.450f.edgecastcdn.net/80450F/screencrush.com/files/2013/05/X-Men-First-CLass-Professor-Xavier-James-McAvoy.jpg gives you the JPEG image that’s usually served to the Screencrush website as indicated in the URL, but it will serve you nothing without the full URL. If China blocks the edgecastcdn.net part of the address, however, then this image will be blocked.

I hope that makes sense.

Dan T. (user link) says:

Re: Re: Not found!

If they have the logical company domain edgecast.com, why do they (as with so many other companies) feel it necessary to use a totally different (but similar looking) domain to hang subdomains off of for hosting content, instead of putting them all nice and logically under their main domain as the DNS was intended to be used way back in the ’80s when it was created? I call that “Stupid Unnecessary Domain Names”.

Brazilian Guy says:

The 2008 global crisis didn’t affect much the grownth of internet related business, and gave the final push to make internet an economic factor. We also saw the start of the sharp downturn of traditional media and journalism in that period. As such, governmental entities all over the world are redoubling their efforts trying to “claim” this territory.

Now the consensus is that bigger, more deep economical ressession is on the making, and this time China won’t be as unscathed as in 2008. That’s bad because it could affect specially hard the industry of internet related business as China is the main exporter of electronic components.

In a context of prolongated recession, if the Internet related business stop growing, expect major advance of national policies for control and regulamentation of the Internet. Policies that will be adopted more for political than technical reasons. Russia is more or less the reference, but South Korea id policy and the UK proposals also are notable.

Anonymous Coward says:

We have acknowledged all along that our method of unblocking websites using “collateral freedom” hinges on the gamble that the Chinese authorities will not block access to global CDNs because they understand the value of China being integrated with the global internet.

This reminds me of what I like to call Assange’s Paradox.

The leak, in other words, is only the catalyst for the desired counter-overreaction; Wikileaks wants to provoke the conspiracy into turning off its own brain in response to the threat. As it tries to plug its own holes and find the leakers, he reasons, its component elements will de-synchronize from and turn against each other, de-link from the central processing network, and come undone. Even if all the elements of the conspiracy still exist, in this sense, depriving themselves of a vigorous flow of information to connect them all together as a conspiracy prevents them from acting as a conspiracy.

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