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China Strangles Tor Ahead of National Day 297

Posted by timothy
from the not-so-much-into-liberty-y'see dept.
TechReviewAl writes "Technology Review reports that the Chinese government has for the first time targeted the Tor anonymity network. In the run-up to China's National Day celebrations, the government started targeting the sites used to distribute Tor addresses and the number of users inside China dropped from tens of thousands to near zero. The move is part of a broader trend that involves governments launching censorship crackdowns around key dates. The good news is that many Tor users quickly found a way around the attack, distributing 'bridge' addresses via IM and Twitter."
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China Strangles Tor Ahead of National Day

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  • Surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Thursday October 15, 2009 @03:41PM (#29761315) Journal

    It's actually quite interesting what Chinese goverment is capable of on technical terms. Most of the goverments are quite clueless when it comes to computer and internet stuff, but Chinese seem to be on the track always.

    • Re:Surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Foobar of Borg (690622) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @03:46PM (#29761375)

      It's actually quite interesting what Chinese goverment is capable of on technical terms. Most of the goverments are quite clueless when it comes to computer and internet stuff, but Chinese seem to be on the track always.

      Indeed. If the UK tried this, not only would it not work, it would somehow leak all the troop and ship locations to everyone in the world, along with Gordon Brown's gay lover's telephone number.

    • Re:Surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SomeJoel (1061138) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @03:51PM (#29761431)

      It's actually quite interesting what Chinese goverment is capable of on technical terms. Most of the goverments are quite clueless when it comes to computer and internet stuff, but Chinese seem to be on the track always.

      The Chinese government is capable because unlike most countries, it has to be. For countries like the U.S., Japan, and most European countries, the citizens are fairly free to go about their business without fear of government reprisal. So, these countries simply don't care (nor do they need to care) about the best ways to shut off their citizens' freedoms.

      Other highly controlling countries, such as North Korea, have citizens who simply don't have access to these things to begin with, so there is no need to shut them off.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      You really think that most governments are clueless?
      Almost all the industrialized nations have access to experts that could block tor just as well.
      They don't do it because it is illegal to do it in those nations or they find it immoral to do.
      I always thought it funny that people thought that TOR was unstoppable by the Chinese or any other government.
      The elected officials may have limited knowlege of technology but they don't handle the details they give the orders.

  • I love this (Score:5, Funny)

    by koan (80826) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @03:47PM (#29761383)

    It gives me hope to see how people can get around this sort of oppression, I am hoping that it stays that way, that we will always have the option of communicating with each other, that no corporation or government will strangle.
    I truly hope it stays that way.

    An open Internet is power to the people.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by John Hasler (414242)

      > I truly hope it stays that way.

        At "tens of thousands" of Tor users out of a population of over a billion? I'm sure the Chinese government agrees with you.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @03:49PM (#29761401) Journal

    There was just recently a slashdot article about Congress passing a law to allow them to monitor what passes through anonymous networks. Many of the EU states have similar capabilities. We look at China as an example of government censorship, but maybe we ought to look at our own homes as well.

    • This.

      I think China is bad, moving in a positive direction. Aging dictators, a colossal age gap, then a young generation who came up with grass mud horse, and will eventually topple the censorship.
      We're one dodgy ground at the moment, and moving in a negative direction. Internet freedom in the west is on the edge of the abyss.

    • by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:14PM (#29761713) Journal

      There was just recently a slashdot article about Congress passing a law to allow them to monitor what passes through anonymous networks.

      I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's about 50% child pornography, 25% copyright infringement, 15% trolling on sites that banned someone and 10% legitimate speech that has a valid need for anonymity. I ran a tor exit node for three days before I got curious enough to fire up wireshark and see what kind of traffic was passing through it. I shut it down after I discovered that the vast majority of it was child pornography being downloaded from servers in Eastern Europe.

      • by QCompson (675963) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:22PM (#29761815)
        So you're willing to dismiss the 10% of legitimate speech?
        • by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:24PM (#29761849) Journal

          No, I'm just not willing to use my resources to promote the exploitation of children.

          • by QCompson (675963)

            No, I'm just not willing to use my resources to promote the exploitation of children.

            But do you think Tor should exist at all? Or should governments aggressively stamp out any programs which attempt to provide their users with anonymity?

            • by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:37PM (#29761987) Journal

              I don't have a problem with tor existing. I've used it myself many times. I'm just not willing to support it with my network resources when child pornography makes up such a large portion of the traffic on the tor network.

              Personally I would like to see someone design something like tor that would be limited to text based protocols like IRC, Usenet, etc. That would provide a channel of anonymous communication that could be deployed without sucking up as many resources as tor does and without supporting child pornography and copyright infringement. This would bring at least two benefits:

              1. More people would be willing to run tor nodes because they wouldn't have to donate as much bandwidth
              2. The network would be used for communication rather than bulk transfers of copyrighted works and/or child pornography.
              • by linuxpyro (680927) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:54PM (#29762221)

                Personally I would like to see someone design something like tor that would be limited to text based protocols like IRC, Usenet, etc.

                You could set an exit policy to do just that, check the tor documentation. It might not stop other people from allowing Web traffic, but it would ensure people wouldn't be using your exit node for child porn. (Binary Usenet transfers or transfers over IRC aside.)

                Hell, you could even limit what Web sites people can get to through your node. So you could still allow access to, say, Google and Wikipedia but no other sites.

              • Personally I would like to see someone design something like tor that would be limited to text based protocols like IRC, Usenet, etc. That would provide a channel of anonymous communication that could be deployed without sucking up as many resources as tor does and without supporting child pornography and copyright infringement.

                Well, you can restrict the ports available on your exit node, such that only connections to NNTP or IRC services are available. Because nobody downloads cp on IRC or Usenet. It's n

              • Are you really so naive as to think that IRC and Usenet can only be used to transfer plain text? Ever hear of uuencoding (encoding binary data as base-64 text)? Some (old) SMTP systems are limited to 7-bit ASCII; that doesn't stop anyone from using them to transfer binary attachments.

                All you've done is made the network less efficient, without limiting how it can be used.

              • by X0563511 (793323)

                I think you're doing it right. It is just as much your right to run the exit node as it is to decline to continue to do so, based on it's apparent use.

              • by rahvin112 (446269) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:59PM (#29763235)

                A picture is worth 1000 words. What would the press value be of text statements about the Iranian protests compared to the value of a picture showing 100,000 people in the streets? If you restrict the anonymous networks to text only you destroy the press value. Pictures are the basis of modern press. The picture or video of the police beating someone has value, a text statement by an anonymous eyewitness is easily refuted by the authoritarian regime but the video or picture can't be refuted easily.

                The problem with believing in free speech is you have to tolerate all speech. You are unwilling to tolerate all speech so you throw out all the value of the really important, possibly world changing, speech. To me it's called throwing out the baby with the bathwater but to each his own, but you aren't on the moral high ground you think you are.

          • by lennier (44736)

            I had that problem with Freenet back in about 2001 or so.

            I have no idea how much content on the network then actually was child pornography, but nearly all the main search/index pages had links claiming to be child porn.

            And I was paying for bandwidth to host a node.

            After a while I thought 'you know, I really do not need to be facilitating the distribution of this stuff. Whether it is or is not child porn I don't know and I'm not going to click to find out, but it's claiming to be, and that's way too squicky

      • Was it actual child pornography, or just children without clothes? There's a difference. The former is sick, but the latter is legal.

      • by selven (1556643)

        In a free country, that 10% justifies the other 90%. It's better to set 10 guilty men free than keep an innocent man in jail and all that.

    • to honestly sit here and put forth the idea that the level of censorship in the west is anything remotely near what china does, you've arrived at intellectual fail. the SCALE of the effort matters. if the west, for example, tries to find kiddie porn, it is entirely in your right to debate that effort and question its relevancy, effectiveness, and the direction of such laws

      now, if you were to actually engage in such criticism in china, a nice young man or woman in one of the many banks of party loyalists who

    • by dave562 (969951)

      China is simply the testing ground where they are working out all of the bugs with the hardware and software. When all of the censorship was happening in Iran around the time of the disputed elections, it came out that Nortel was working with the Iranian government to filter the internet traffic coming in and out of the country. It wouldn't surprise me if multi-national corporations weren't playing similar rolls in China's networking infrastructure. If not Nortel, then Cisco, or Juniper, or one of the ot

  • by Tetsujin (103070) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @03:54PM (#29761455) Homepage Journal

    "TIME FOR GO TO BED!"

    That Tor just cracks me up...

  • by thered2001 (1257950) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:14PM (#29761723) Journal
    After reading the headline, I thought China was doing harm to my favorite book publisher. "How could they be a threat to China?" I wondered. "Sure some of their books are thought-provoking, but really!"
  • go ahead china (Score:4, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:15PM (#29761733) Homepage Journal

    joust at that hydra

    control freaks have at their psychological root a toxic amount of insecurity. the grumpy old men in beijing have to make sure society is "harmonious" even if that's nothing more than media shorthand for placid lies. the truth is often ugly, dissent is always ugly. but when you expose yourself to dissent and ugliness, you do nothing but strengthen your mind and your convictions and your bullshit detector. all china is doing with the massive amount of societal control is producing a generation of chinese minds that have nothing but cotton candy between the ears: unable to handle anything except the most stultifying of platitudes about the world and its nature, wilting at the slightest sign of trouble

    china is supposed to be emerging world power? when chinese raised in the hermetically sealed climate controlled media environment of modern china interact with their compatriots from india, brazil, japan, usa, germany... what are these dunderheads going to be like? when they encounter the slightest bit of provocation or contrasting opinion to the almighty sense of "harmony" what are their social skills for that resistance? censor? ignore? run away?

    a "harmonious society" seems nothing more to me than a way to ensure chinese minds in the generations to come are weak brittle minds incapable of understanding or processing criticism of any kind, because it's not "harmonious". "harmony": what a fucking bullshit codeword for "i'm insecure at the top, don't think anything that might make me feel threatened". this isn't about cultural differences, this is is about a colossal social weakness of modern china completely of chinese making, a society-wide achilles heel: "we can't handle criticism, cover your ears"

    enjoy your cottonheaded future china, so sorry for my dissent. you can just ignore, dismiss, and censor me. that's obviously the best way to handle these words. pffffffft

    • by Whorhay (1319089)

      What you say is true, in varying degrees for most every government I have ever read about. Not that I am anti government, anarchy isn't likely to get us anywhere fast. But people by and large the world over are afraid of unknowns, and will seek to shelter themselves and their progeny from the things that scare them. And of course there are plenty of power hungry asshats who will take advantage of any little power they are given to gain more by pandering to the masses in this regard.

  • Apparently China's firewall is a lot better than their drywall [yahoo.com].
    • by cyfer2000 (548592)
      I wrote a report on the Chinese drywall issue and free trade on my MBA class. The whole story include a German company and its manufacturing plant in China, one shipping company, one importer, several builders and house owners. If you forget those sensational news and dig into legal documents, you will find that the importer of the drywall in question failed to get customs documents for the dry wall in question. So those drywall were sitting on boats for as long as 6 months along Florida coast. This elo
  • by mathfeel (937008) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:46PM (#29762103)
    I was posting in a Hong Kong (note: not the mainland) Linux user group forum the other day and advising someone to use dyndns.org. The string "dyndns.org" got filtered into ">>>
    I didn't know dyndns is a threat in HK.
  • by xiando (770382) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:50PM (#29762177) Homepage Journal
    The Tor developers knew that it would be very easy for tyrannical regimes to download the directory list and block all the IPs in it, so they prepared for this by implementing bridge support about a year ago. The bridge model makes it very hard to block Tor. Technologyreview briefly mentions this. What really happened, and you can all go read more about this in the Tor blog at blog.torproject.org, is that what has happened the last few days is that the number of people using Tor-servers directly dropped to near zero while the number of people using bridges exploded. People simply switched to using bridges when they found that the Tor-network had been blocked.
  • GFW in China (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dUN82 (1657647) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:59PM (#29762315)
    Well, it is clear that the CCP is implementing a more strict online blocking and censoring policy, OCT.1 is just one example of those that is exposed to the outside world. 2009 also marks the 20th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square 4JUN1989, CCP instructed all website in China, to disable comment functions through out the country, majority of the websites complied and rest of the simply shut down the their website claim as 'maintenance' as a protest, it was the official 'Chinese website maintenance day'. I would expect such policy to carried out repeatedly in the future. I am lucky enough to personally experience the internet, CCP style from Jun to Sep this year! Let me give you an example what it is like: 1st thing I get online I openned www.google.com and dare you search for anything, I really mean it, anything, you will be reset to death after click into page 2, 3 of the results if you are lucky not to be blocked immdieatly after click 'Google search' or 'I'm feeling not so lucky in China' button. Google image search is worse, you are assured by the CCP to not see anything that is in anyway related to harm a harmonious society. Youtube is certainly not working for like a year now, as long with victims such as blogger, worldpress,livejournal, facebook,twitter, basically anything that can help people find useful, uncensored information, or anything that can help 'words' getting around. Picasa was among the laest victim of the GFW, I have about 7G of photo stored on it, which I cannot show or share with 1/4 of the world population. I rarely use flickr, but words are it was ultra-unusually unblocked by the GFW afetr I fled China before OTC.1, my assumption is the journalist all over the world flocked the OCT.1 ceremony may get very very angry when they find they cannot upload to flickr. And when you just about to think can media freedom in China to be any worse? The answer is YES. Media censorship extents to movies, tvs, newspapers, almost anything you can think of! The Summer Olympic Games was as much as freedom the CCP can give to foreigners, which CCP immediately took back after the event, followed by the unrest in Tibet and Urumqi, and Taiwan. It is very likely the conflict between those parts I mentioned to get worse in the near future, and the GFW will further enforced by the CCP as a way to maintain their one-party-ruling.

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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