The building in Cheyenne, Wyoming
No one is still quite sure what happened, but for several hours on Tuesday, hundred of millions of Internet users in China trying to access major domains were redirected to a mysterious company in Cheyenne, Wyoming in the United States.
Media yesterday were still unsure whether the malfunction was the result of a cyberattack or an error within the Great Firewall system when over 500 million Chinese Internet users on Tuesday were unable to load websites ending in .com, .net or .org for around eight hours and were instead directed to Sophidea Incorporated, a company located at a two-story building on Pioneeer Ave. in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
“Either it was an intentional DNS [domain name system] hack or the unintentional result of the Great Firewall, but I haven’t seen any technical analysis of what was more likely,” Adam Segal, a scholar on China and cybersecurity at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Brian Fung of the Washington Post.
New York Times explains:
Some technologists surmised Tuesday that the disruption may have been caused by Chinese Internet censors who attempted to block traffic to Sophidea’s websites but mistakenly redirected traffic to the service instead.
That theory was buttressed by the fact that a separate wave of Chinese Internet traffic Tuesday was simultaneously redirected to Internet addresses owned by Dynamic Internet Technology, a company that helps people evade China’s Great Firewall, and is typically blocked in China.
Bill Xia, who created Dynamic Internet Technology in 2001, told The Wall Street Journal Tuesday that his company had nothing to do with the traffic shift and also suspected that the problem was the doing of China’s own Internet censors.
According to The Washington Post, Dynamic Internet Technology has a long history of protesting in Beijing and Bill Xia, a practitioner of Falun Gong, is a staunch anti-censor advocate.
The Post’s article raises questions about what Sophidea, the company in Cheyenne, Wyoming, has to do with the blackout in China. Web searches of the IP addresses of Sophidea and Xia’s company turn up identical numbers: 220.127.116.11. It’s possible that some of these Web sites do not have the latest information, or that Sophidea and Xia’s company have some kind of relationship. But what appears to be yet unproven is whether all that traffic from China landed in Sophidea’s lap and whether it literally went to Wyoming.
We will update with further developments as they arise.
[Image: Google Street View via NYT]