The Great Firewall of China takes on VPN’s
The legendary Great Firewall of China is a thorn in the side of any businessman or tourist wishing to get online when within the borders of what is a fascinating and commercially important country. Created by the government to block access to content deemed subversive or unsuitable for Chinese nationals, it has long troubled users wishing to use Google, Facebook, YouTube and more, although those with a little inside knowledge have been able to bypass restrictions by installing and using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN like HideMyAss Pro! VPN…
Cracking Down on VPN’s
The Chinese authorities have been aware of the growing popularity of VPN’s for some time, and have recently launched an initiative to crack down on their use. Although not illegal, they are frowned upon by the powers that be in China, and some users have found they were no longer able to access popular Western sites using their service. However, some services – notably Hotspot Shield among them, which is one of the more popular services – have reported that they have not been blocked. Quite why is unknown, although experts have discovered some interesting factors regarding the blocking methods being used.
It has been discovered that the Chinese may be a step behind in their censorship technology, as it is believed they are blocking sites that use the less sophisticated OpenVPN protocol. This is as opposed to L2TP and PPTP protocols, which are more up to date, and services that use the above two can still be accessed within China. For business users, and personal users, being able to circumnavigate the firewall when in China makes things a lot easier, and it remains to be seen whether the Chinese will be willing to open their doors to such commercially beneficial aspects of the internet.
Boom in Business
What is interesting is that, thanks to the media coverage of China’s latest censorship exploits, interest in VPN technology has rocketed, with the main players in the market reporting a notable increase in users in recent weeks. The publicity given to the situation has in turn acted as publicity for the product, and the resulting demand is a welcome boost for the industry. If you need to use a VPN in China look or one using the more sophisticated protocol, and make sure you choose a server in the likes of Hong Kong, the USA or Europe for more chance of connection.
Here’s the scene: you’re on holiday in an exotic location, you decide you want to watch your favourite TV on show on one of the many streaming channels, and yet you find that your content is unavailable in that country. It may be that it is banned by the authorities, or that copyright restrictions mean it cannot be shown there. Either way, it’s annoying and spoils your fun. Did you know, however, that there is a cheap and simple way of overcoming these restrictions, and one that is entirely legal? It’s called a virtual private network – or, more commonly, a VPN.
You may be wondering how these restrictions work: quite simply, when you log onto the internet you are given an identifying number unique to you. This number tells the servers, machines that transfer information from one to another, who you are, where you are, and what you are trying to access. If they detect that you are trying to access information that is restricted where you are, the server will block it. You can overcome this by using a VPN like IPVanish, which allows you to choose a server in one of many countries; in other words, you fool the server into believing you are somewhere that the site you want is allowed to be accessed. It really is that simple.
Easy & Affordable
You may have read the above and think that things sound a little complex; in fact, using a VPN could not be easier. You simply follow the instructions on a website – there are many to choose from, but be advised to look for one that is established and not a less reliable free version – and then you are ready to go; it’s as easy as installing an app, and will cost you noting more than a few dollars a month. That, we are sure you will agree, is a small price to pay for the added benefits of browsing wherever you may be, as well as the enhanced online privacy and security that a good VPN provided. Why not have a look now and see what a VPN can do for you?
China is one of the most important economic powers in the world today, yet it is an odd commercial entity in many ways. A basic culture that is far removed from that familiar to us in the west makes much of China’s domestic and international ethics seem alien to us, and visitors from the likes of the USA and Europe find the strong media censorship shocking. This is never more apparent than when trying to use the internet, for the Chinese authorities take a dim view of persons using it for free speech purposes or for accessing western content.
The internet is heavily censored within China thanks to the famous ‘Great Firewall’, a government initiative aimed at halting the use of various chat forums and websites by political subversives who post anti-government comments. They also choose to censor content that they believe to be unsuitable for Chinese nationals, and this can mean that visitors to the country, whether for business or pleasure, can be troublesome. Even giants such as Google have fallen foul of the strict internet restrictions, and visitors will find that streaming sites such as Netflix are heavily censored. However, there is something you can do to get around the Great Firewall, although it may take a little trial and error: invest in a virtual private network or premium DNS service.
Using a VPN in China
With more than 600 million internet users in China it is clear the government has a difficult job keeping them away from all the content they do not want them to see. However, there is no doubt that the authorities do a thorough job, and even Google has found it hard to circumnavigate the restrictions. Many inside the country have taken to using a VPN – this is not technically illegal but certainly frowned upon – to access content and chat boards where they can express their views. This is the best method for Westerners to access content as it allows for them to use a server that is beyond the firewall and therefore unaffected. However, be sure that the Chinese government will continue to move the goal posts in an effort to keep censorship strong.
For most of us across the world social networking sites have become a daily source of information and fun, but for some this sort of internet content is censored. China springs to mind, as it is home to the ‘Great Firewall’, a government run project designed to control internet access among the people in that country. Sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are blocked within China, and for those who use Twitter to communicate regularly, when travelling in China this can present a real problem. So, how do you unblock Twitter in China? In fact, it may be easier than you think.
Why is Twitter Blocked?
The Chinese government is concerned at the way the internet allows users to access content that may be considered subversive, obscene, or that it simply considers to be not fit for the people. As social networking sites such as Twitter are largely a free chat forum, Chinese users could easily read comments that the government does not want it to see, either from anti-Chinese commentators or political adversaries. Wikipedia, and Google to an extent, are similarly censored.
Why A VPN is Essential
As the 21st century rolls on so China becomes not just a major economic power, but a country increasingly popular with tourists. The government cannot restrict the carrying of handheld devices by those entering the country, so it implemented the Great Firewall as a way of keeping content restricted. It does so by using a select few government controlled DNS servers; a virtual private network, or VPN, gets around this by allowing users to choose a server, from within China, that is not inside the firewall restrictions.
How Easy is it?
It is very simple indeed; you simply download your chosen VPN package – they cost a small amount that is well worth the investment – and use it as your chosen access server each time you log on. You can choose servers from all over the world, and instantly access Twitter, Facebook and more, from within countries that geo-restrict content, including China. It’s a vital tool not just for tourists, but also for business users who may wish to contact others in their down time.
Anyone who has traveled to China and attempted to access certain content via the internet will undoubtedly have encountered the famous Great Firewall of China, officially known as the Golden Shield Project. A government-implemented policy that aims to censor access to a variety of content, ranging from the politically subversive to that considered inappropriate for the people of China, this notorious firewall is one of the most powerful in the world, yet it is possible – and quite simple to break through it if you know how. Many believe the Great Firewall also incorporates surveillance techniques, making it more sinister than at first thought.
What is Blocked?
The Golden Shield Project is part of the Chinese governments continued desire to control the internet in the country, and is aimed at censoring material considered too ‘Western’ or politically sensitive; these range from the teachings of the Dalai Lama, sites supporting political groups in favour of democracy, and many social networking outlets. Even Wikipedia, the online free content encyclopaedia, is blocked in China, although there are signs that some of these sites are being slowly freed from their shackles.
How Do I Get Around it?
The Great Firewall uses, in general, standard DNS server programming to implement its purpose; anyone requesting information that is not permitted by the government run servers will find access denied. However, by using a virtual private network – VPN – which access content by a server that is beyond the firewall, in other words not within China, visitors can access the content they require. The many VPN services use servers in countries throughout the world, so you would be accessing as if you were in, say, the UK or USA.
Is This Legal?
There are in fact no direct laws against using a VPN in China, although the authorities take a dim view of persons who are found to be accessing blocked content. However, the second major advantage of a VPN is that it encrypts all data and therefore hides your identity. So long as you are not accessing content it in itself is illegal, and you go about your ways discreetly and without making it too obvious, then you can use a VPN to browse the content you would at home when in China.
Students are among the most prominent users of the internet, and as such will know only too well that schools and universities often apply restrictions to what can and what cannot be viewed in the establishment. With hand held devices such as smartphones and tab lets now the most popular way of surfing the web it is no surprise that schools have taken the time to make it difficult for students to access the web in school time, but did you know there is a way to get around these firewalls? All you need is a simple service known as a VPN, or virtual private network.
How Does it Work?
When you access the internet from school or university you will likely do so via the internal WiFi; this will use a designated server to access any information you request. It is this server that knows what to block as instructed, so you need to use a different server. This is what a VPN does; there are many such services with servers in different locations around the world, and by choosing one of these you are bypassing the restricted school server. It’s simple, effective and cheap, and it also has many other benefits.
What Else is Great About a VPN?
Not only will a VPN allow you to gain access to content restricted by your school or university, but it also provides you with increased levels of security. A public WiFi network can be accessed by a lot of people and, as such, provides easy picking for those who wish to steal information that is being sent back and forth using that network. With a VPN service you are no longer susceptible to such risks as the system will not only use a remote server, but will also encrypt all information you send. This protects not just your information, but also gives you added protection where your online identity is concerned. The dual purpose of the VPN – to protect you when online and to bypass those school and university firewalls – make it a valuable purchase for only a small monthly outlay.