Oh good. The Great Firewall is being upgraded and reinforced with “intelligent technology” that can sniff out and block encrypted connections, effectively screwing most VPN services.
A number of companies providing “virtual private network” (VPN) services to users in China say the new system is able to “learn, discover and block” the encrypted communications methods used by a number of different VPN systems.
China Unicom, one of the biggest telecoms providers in the country, is now killing connections where a VPN is detected, according to one company with a number of users in China.
As the Global Times so gleefully pointed out, use of a foreign run VPN in China is actually illegal, as service providers must register with the authorities.
Three overseas VPN service providers, Astrill, Witopia and StrongVPN apologized Thursday that their service to residents in the Chinese mainland has been blocked due to a recent upgrade of the GFW. Astrill claimed that most VPN protocols have been blocked, and that many foreign companies have been influenced.
VPNs are not only used by ex-pats seeking their Facebook and Twitter fix, many businesses use them as a secure means of transmitting information between branches.
“You can’t block all VPNs without blocking businesses, including Chinese businesses. China wants businesses to put regional headquarters in China. It has these economic and business goals that are reliant on modern business infrastructure,” said [an anonymous Western executive].
A Ministry of Information official told the Global Times that “companies should follow Chinese laws and find licensed local companies to establish their Chinese VPN networks.”
Multinationals are already wary of sharing sensitive data with Chinese partners and clients, the likelihood of them trusting a Chinese firm to provide a secure, encrypted network is next to nil. A representative from Astrill told users that the company expected that the filtering would soon be relaxed as it creates “a lot of harm to business in China”.