Does China Have An Internet Kill Switch?

    April 15, 2012
    Zach Walton
    Comments are off for this post.

Anonymous has been battling China’s Great Firewall for the past two weeks after an initial attack that left many government Web sites defaced with instructions on how to get around said firewall. It’s going to take Anonymous a while to even make a crack in the firewall, which makes the events of this past week all the more perplexing.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Internet across all of China went down at 11 a.m. Thursday. This wasn’t a simple loss of service, but a country wide block of a bunch of Web sites that are not normally blocked. Some of those include Weibo and Baidu, China’s version of Twitter and Google respectively. This wasn’t only relegated to China though as Hong Kong and Japan had trouble accessing Chinese sites as well.

The Internet was down for about two hours which is a ridiculous amount of time for an entire country’s Internet to be experiencing downtime. WSJ reports that some Chinese speculated that the earthquake near Indonesia may have affected the Internet in some way, but that appears to not be the case. As to what really caused the outage, Chinese ISPs aren’t talking.

Many Asian tech blogs and ZDNet speculate that this was a test run of a new Internet kill switch. For those unaware of the idea of an Internet killswitch, it’s basically a panic button for the Internet. A country like China, whose position towards the Internet is one of antagonism, would have much to gain from the implementation of a kill switch. In the event of a firewall takedown from Anonymous or any other event like that, it would be advantageous for the country to block access to the Internet. This would allow them to keep the citizens offline as the government repairs the firewall.

Then again, the idea of an Internet kill switch is generally frowned upon by the world. It’s not unheard of though with Iran wanting to build their own Internet which would prohibit any of its citizens from accessing foreign Web sites. It’s not exactly the same thing, but it gets the job of crushing the free exchange of information and ideas done.

As of now though, we’re dealing with a lot of speculation and not a lot of answers. Until we get official word from China as to the actual cause, we’re in the dark here.

What do you think caused the Chinese Internet blackout? Was it a test run of a kill switch or just a bug in the system? Let us know in the comments.

  • David H

    From ZDNet article:

    “The Great Firewall of China is a massive and complicated system that blocks all types of content that the Chinese government deems improper. It features firewalls and proxy servers at the Internet gateways, engages in selective DNS poisoning when particular sites are requested, and leverages various other methods to censor the Internet, including Connection resets, DNS filtering and redirection, IP blocking, Packet filtering, and URL filtering.”

    Those who are naive enough to argue that a Kill Switch is Impossible or Implausible do not take into account that the “internet” in China was set up and continues to be set up and installed under a totalitarian system that zealously seeks to prevent attacks on its control or “reputation”. The infrastructure there was built under state control and the technicians are very smart and technologically skilled.

    People think that they can “escape” the firewall and monitoring by using VPN protocols but that is an illusion. The very reason that someone would conmmunicate using VPN makes them a target for snooping. All traffic, VPN or otherwise, has to pass through government controlled routers.

    And the FACT that is also reported from users in China is that their VPN connections also failed. This is proof enough that the government KNOWS most of the existing VPN’s.

    Also, remember that Communist governments have historically saturated their society with very successful and motivated SPIES. A recent example: German research has now shown conclusively that the East German secret police, the Stasi, during the Cold War had a network of spies in West Germany that was much bigger than previously known. Thousands of people worked as informers and spied on their colleagues and friends.

    As for China, who has taken Communism much farther in suppression of its citizens, I would not doubt for a moment that many of these VPN’s used by users seeking outside access and secrecy are if not completely transparent to the Chinese government via Spies but may also be Chinese Government VPN’s operating on Chinese Government servers for the very purpose of funneling ideological threats into a known and monitored pool of offenders.

    Can China “turn off” the Internet at will, by internal decree?

    OF COURSE they can, and have been giving it practice runs, obviously.

  • http://www.webpronews.com/author/richard-stalker Richard Stalker