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.
It’s one of the most popular streaming channels of all; Netflix, a viewing revolution that has given us all a chance to watch what we want, when we want. With a choice of great movies and fantastic TV series, Netflix has opened up our viewing capability like never before, and is cheap too. However, did you know that there are some countries in which you cannot access Netflix and other similar channels? China is a good example of a country where the internet is heavily censored. For those of us who travel abroad regularly this can be a problem, but fortunately there is a way around it.
Benefits of a VPN
If you have not yet heard about the benefits of using a virtual private network (or a premium DNS service), then now is certainly the time to be catching up. A VPN is a way of accessing web content without having to use the dedicated servers that your information would normally be routed through. It is these servers that recognise where you are and, in the event of content restricted by your location, will automatically block it. With a VPN you can choose from a range of servers in many different countries; for example, if you are in China you can choose a server that is in the USA or Europe. By doing this, you are able to access content that is otherwise restricted.
More About VPN’s
Further benefit of using a VPN is that it enhances your online security. All information sent using a reputable VPN service will be encrypted, so will become harder for unscrupulous persons to interfere with or steal. Your identity cannot be uncovered, and the added benefits of this are hard to ignore. For a small monthly fee you can protect your identity and information, and also get by such powerful restrictions as the legendary Great Firewall of China. The more you think about it, the more you wonder why you have never used one before – it really does make a lot of sense to use a VPN, and make sure you are as invisible as you can possibly be.
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.
China is not only one of the most important countries in the world in terms of business and commerce, it is also a mysterious and rather wonderful place to visit for a vacation. A radically different culture to that we are used to in the West makes it a fascinating experience. This culture gulf has led to the Chinese government censoring internet usage in no small fashion: the famous ‘Great Firewall of China’ not only blocks the likes of Facebook and Twitter, but also many other web sites that it considers unsuitable for the Chinese population. For visitors wishing to keep in touch when in China, this presents a real problem.
Getting Past the Great Firewall
Despite what you may have been told, unblocking Facebook in China is not at all difficult, but you do need to subscribe to a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. It works like this: when in China, if you try and load Facebook the DNS server you get connected to will be a local one. It will detect that you are attempting to access blocked content, and refuse you entry. What a VPN does – among other impressive things – is allow you to choose a server to access beyond the firewall; choose one in a country that allows Facebook access, and you have it. In effect, you are fooling your smartphone, tablet or computer into believing you are not in China at all!
More about VPN
The added beauty of a VPN is that it protects your identity; your information will be fully encrypted, and will not be accessible by hackers or other agencies looking for your identity. You can unlock Facebook, Twitter and a whole wealth of Western websites in a matter of minutes, with a simple, affordable VPN package, and completely anonymous when doing so. The VPN is an important tool for both business and personal users, and not just when travelling in China, for many other countries also block certain types of content. Look for an established, reputed name and enjoy your browsing to the full, wherever you may be.