Does China Have An Internet Kill Switch?

IT Management

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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.