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Censors are now blocking VPN access in China

VPN providers are experiencing disruptions in their services which means the government's censorship techniques are becoming more advanced. Will this be bad for business? 

Chinese VPN providers suffer disruptions linked to censorship efforts
Reuters reported that VPN services people use to access blocked Internet sites and apps in China have been experiencing disruptions in the past week. Three Internet providers, Virtual Private Network, StrongVPN and Golden Frog, which are constantly striving to find ways to circumvent Chinese government's firewall censorship system, indicated their services were not working properly. Sunday Yokubaitis, president of Golden Frog, explained that the government is getting better at blocking VPN services.

"This week's attack on VPNs that affected us and other VPN providers is more sophisticated than what we've seen in the past," said Yokubaitis, according to the news source.

TechCrunch also reported on the VPN interruption, and noted additional comments from Yokubaitis.

"The Chinese government has attempted to curtail the use of VPNs that its citizens use to escape the Great Firewall for a couple years. [The] latest attack appears to use deep packet inspection to inspect and block VPN protocols in combination with blocking specific VPN server endpoints," said Yokubaitis.

Censorship supporters want VPN access blocked
According to the Global Times, a newspaper published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, supporters of censorship, including Chinese Internet analysts, argued that VPN providers should adhere to network governance rules in the interest of keeping the country safe. A cyber security expert working for the government told the Global Times that the country's firewall had been improved upon in order to protect the county's "cyberspace sovereignty," reported Reuters.

The media outlet also called attention to how attacks on foreign Internet services are on the rise in China. Censors continue to exert their authority and control over what can be viewed online – especially with regard to anything considered a threat to the ruling Communist Party.

Why VPN networks are a problem area for the government
VPN networks allow people and companies in China to access websites that normally cannot be accessed. Sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google are blocked. As a result, Internet users who want access to these sites are required to use VPNs and proxies in order to view their desired content. Reuters noted that many foreign companies in China use VPNs to conduct business and circumvent the censorship firewall. However, recently companies like Astrill, StrongVPN and Golden Frog have reported heightened disruptions in their services which means users will not be able to gain access to blocked sites.

TechCrunch reported that Google's services experienced problems over the summer. Gmail and other Google products remained out of reach longer than usual after the anniversary of Tiananmen Square. Reports of Microsoft's Outlook being targeted also surfaced recently. Sadly, many believe that government censorship will affect business in China. In agreement with this view, the founder of one censorship monitoring site who goes by the pseudonym Charlie Smith, explained to TechCrunch what the current climate means for the economy going forward.

"We wouldn't go so far to say that the authorities don't want foreigners in China, but we do believe that the increased censorship of the Chinese Internet is building a lot of new barriers – it's now not just about blocking access to information," said Smith, according to the news source. "Censorship has suddenly become a serious business issue. When domestic and foreign companies cannot use the internet for basic business operations, it presents a real economic hurdle."

Up until now censorship in China was a problem that some chose to ignore through the use of VPNs and proxies. As evidenced by recent reports, however, the government is getting better at preventing access to blocked sites. Perhaps in the future people living in China will have to accept the fact that sites like Facebook and Google are permanently out of reach. Foreign companies are increasingly looking to China as a land of vast economic opportunity. Technology and e-commerce companies view the country's massive population as market share that yet is yet to be conquered. It remains to be seen whether the government's increasing censorship efforts will deter some companies from setting up shop in the country. 

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