(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Glyn Moody


Filed Under:
banned, china, vpn



Use Of VPNs Banned Completely For Millions Of People By Chinese Authorities

from the can-we-live-without-them-now? dept

Following the Congress vote to dismantle privacy protections for broadband subscribers, VPNs have suddenly become a very hot area, despite the complex issues surrounding them. We've reported on various instances of authorities around the world either banning VPNs, or flirting with idea of doing so. But there's no doubt that the main battleground over VPNs is in China, where the government has been clamping down on their use with ever-greater rigor.

For example, back in 2012, China started blocking VPNs, but in a rather ad hoc and piecemeal way. As Karl reported in January of this year, the authorities have now taken a much harsher line, requiring all VPN providers to obtain prior government approval in order to operate. Although that still allows people to use VPNs, it places them under strict control, and means they can be turned off by ordering suppliers to shut them down. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reveals that in the major city of Chongqing, the local authorities have taken these measures to their logical conclusion -- banning VPNs completely:

Security authorities in the Chinese city of Chongqing have expanded regulations that govern web access, in a bid to plug holes in the Great Firewall that separates mainlanders from the global internet.

They ban individuals and organisations from establishing or using channels to connect to international networks, and target businesses that help users to connect to such services.

According to the SCMP article, the rules came into force last year, but have only just been published on the local government's website. The regulations are valid until July 2021, and impose fines of up to $2000 on companies offering VPNs. Individuals caught using them are ordered to disconnect, and receive an official "warning," which is probably not something to be taken lightly. Although this seems to be a purely local initiative, the numbers affected are considerable. According to Wikipedia's entry on the metropolis:

Chongqing's population as of 2015 is just over 30 million with an urban population of 18.38 million. Of these, approximately 8.5 million people live in Chongqing city proper;

Those figures are equivalent to the population of a typical small country elsewhere. As such, the move to ban VPNs in Chongqing could act as a rather handy test run to find out what the knock-on effects are, particularly for important classes of internet users like businesses and researchers. Whether or not this latest move was ordered by the authorities in Beijing, they will doubtless be watching its roll-out with keen interest.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 3:33am

    We need more restrictions on our privacy. I am in favor of all these moves towards exposing the private activities of every citizen of every country. And you should be as well.

    Until more privacy invasions are prevelant and standarized, citizens will not take notice. And when the consumers take notice, the companies from which the consumers purchase their services will not change and in turn, will continue to secretly collude with the governments. More invasive measures will force companies to come up with better, unbreakable encryption products. Sometimes you need to break the jar to get the pennies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 4:50am

      Re:

      Wow, that is some seriously flawed logic!

      We need more shootings, because only with emergency rooms full of shooting victims will our ER doctors get the hands-on training they need!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 5:08am

      Re:

      More invasive measures will force companies to come up with better, unbreakable encryption products.

      We already have those. I mean, why do you think they're banning VPNs in the first place? But they don't do you any good if the government bans them.

      It's rather difficult to come up with security that is unbreakable, can be used by the masses, AND is undetectable.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 8:15am

        Re: Re:

        Most of the discussions about "just metadata" is over. Metadata is forfeight as the executive part of society wants it and the industry is not in agreement on this. So in the end you will be detected, no matter what. Only question is if the metadata uniquely identify you.

        The more controversial fight is about giving the executive part of society a right to force companies to comply to more and more extreme measures to make it easier to increase surveillance data stores. That is where encryption and backdooring comes in. VPN is usually a way to make it harder to uniquely identify a computer, but it is not worth much without encryption or geographical legal restrictions to circumvent.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 6:35am

      Re:

      You look like that every government guy

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 3 Apr 2017 @ 4:48am

    The invevitable?

    I'll wager that President Trump will, at some point during his term, suggest a ban or strict limits on the use of encryption and VPN technology using the threat of terrorism, al Qaeda, illegal immigrants, or all the above as the scapegoat.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 5:10am

    Seems pretty British of them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 9:43am

      Re:

      can we stop with this idea that the UK is worse then china, its just not true and is more of a stereotype

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 4:45pm

        Re: Re:

        As long as we're generalizing:
        To its own citizens? Maybe not.
        Historically, to citizens of other countries? Damn right it is.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 5:19am

    Business VPN

    What is the implications for Business VPN's such as Cisco Anyconnect or any other that connect to a company's internal network?
    Will this affect those? Will it affect Site-to-Site VPN's?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 6:43am

      Re: Business VPN

      How will it effect them? Well, we have this graph, with company valuation on one axis and campaign contribution/lobbying expenditures on the other. Gov't official: "Looks like you'll be okay. Could be better though.. " (suggestively rubving thumb and forefinger together)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 5:46am

    Something something technological solution.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 6:05am

      Re:

      The technological solutions, like Steganography, are already available. The problem for society, is that it will likely result in localized small secret extremist organizations planning the next revolution. Either the state fall apart, or some extremist group manages to seize power, just like the communists under Mao managed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 4:49pm

        Re: Re:

        Anyone versed with statesmanship and authoritarianism knows full well that, yes, some will always get through no matter how high a wall (physical or virtual) you erect. But when the average person is successfully prevented or dissuaded from using circumvention tools, it'll make a gap between them and the privacy-/security-savvy. It'll make the latter "different." And it'll be that much easier to demonize and marginalize them.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 6:05am

    However, the fine on companies offering VPNs cannot be applied to companies operating outside of China. Unless the provider happens to have a server in China, they are not subject to Chinese laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Robert Beckman, 3 Apr 2017 @ 6:43am

      Re:

      Kim Dotcom is excited to hear that news.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 8:59am

        Re: Re:

        That is diferent than copyright. When I eventually launch the VPN service that I would like to start, as long as I do not run any servers in China, I cannot be fined by the Chinese. Or if they do fine me, I can simply refuse to pay the fine, and just not set foot in China.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 10:41am

        Re: Re:

        Dotcom had some of his servers in the USA. If none of his servers had been in the USA, he would not have been subject to prosecution in America.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 6:40am

    no surprise here but have to wonder, as every government, everywhere doesn't actually give a toss about stopping terrorism or protecting the children from porn or pedophiles, but wants to know everything about everyone, simply to be able to stomp on them and stop the release of info on the stupid and dangerous things that politicians, the wealthy, the famous, the company and industry heads do, but dont want anyone else to know, when this ban will be expanded to so-called democratic countries as well? be honest, our privacy and freedom is being forcibly removed on a daily basis so as to end up with us having nothing at all in a very short time! the USA is one of the worse countries for doing this, particularly now it has a new head and a new government that is interested in only ensuring that any and all businesses are as successful as they can be, while making us people as vulnerable as possible. the recent removal of on-line protections by Congress that was really initiated by the liar now in charge and control of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is the best example so far. and dont forget the bullshit response that has come from the likes of Comcast, Verizon and AT&T about not selling our data! we are in deep crap, people and it wont change until the government changes or the people grow some and stand up against what is being taken from us! remember, once it's gone, in the 10 minutes it takes to do that, it takes 10 years to get back, if we're lucky!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 9:45am

    TD beat them to it (sorta)

    My anon comments are always held for moderation, due to using VPN. It's not exactly banning, or censorship, but the delay is sufficient to have a chilling effect. By the time any comment I make gets posted, the conversation has already mostly concluded, and I have no chance to offer any timely replies. -with those things being the case; what's the point of contributing to the discussion?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 4:53pm

      Re: TD beat them to it (sorta)

      the delay is sufficient to have a chilling effect.

      That doesn't mean what you think it means.

      You're probably just one of those trolls/shills who keep bitching about being "censored." (Which also doesn't mean what you think it means.) Shut up, or if you're honest, get a better VPN.

      I use the site with a variety of VPNs, TOR, what have you, and never once have my comments ever been sent to moderation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2017 @ 11:51am

        Re: Re: TD beat them to it (sorta)

        This is the first time anyone's ever put words in my mouth (which contradict what I said FWIW) and then told me to shut up for them- quite an odd tactic, kinda feels.... ironic, when you go on to say I'm probably a troll.

        I feel I stated quite clearly how the moderation delay creates a chilling effect- if you take away the usefulness of communication, you take away the motive to communicate. That IS a chilling effect. I've lost my motivation to post here, because posting is no longer a viable means to take part in the conversation.

        What do you think Chilling Effect means? I looked it up, just to make sure I didn't have my foot in my mouth- I care about that sort of thing; and it does happen on occasion. Not seeing it in this case though.

        I continue to give TD the benefit of the doubt that whatever they're doing that always puts my comments in moderation is the 'least evil' solution to a legitimate problem. It would be nice if there where more transparency around it though- which is exactly what's prompted this, and one other post in another thread- I"m hoping for a response from TD, and perhaps an explanation of what's going on, and if there's any hope of things going back to how it was at some point.

        I'd suggest if your 'anonymous' comments are never being held for moderation, then you should probably ask yourself why that is. Especially since you mention TOR- There is likely something in your browser that uniquely identifies your computer to the comment system.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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