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AI Censorship China Communications Encryption Your Rights Online

VPN Providers Say China Blocks Encryption Using Machine Learning Algorithms 111

An anonymous reader writes "The internet control in China seems to have been tightened recently, according to the Guardian. Several VPN providers claimed that the censorship system can 'learn, discover and block' encrypted VPN protocols. Using machine learning algorithms in protocol classification is not exactly a new topic in the field. And given the fact that even the founding father of the 'Great Firewall,' Fan Bingxing himself, has also written a paper about utilizing machine learning algorithm in encrypted traffic analysis, it would be not surprising at all if they are now starting to identify suspicious encrypted traffic using numerically efficient classifiers. So the arm race between anti-censorship and surveillance technology goes on."
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VPN Providers Say China Blocks Encryption Using Machine Learning Algorithms

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  • Havoc (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 20, 2012 @11:14AM (#42347811)
    This has been causing havoc and reduces availability and integrity of our VPN access to our Chinese clients. The insane part is, most of them are in the aerospace and defense industry and are usually mostly owned by the Chinese government. It's indiscriminate. So far steganography techniques have worked, at the reduction of speed and standardisation, but it's hard to explain to clients why they suddenly can't access network resources and expect your company to fix everything.
  • by bigtrike ( 904535 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @11:31AM (#42348061)

    You might be able to use this to simulate encrypted traffic to something legitimate and cause it to be blocked.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 20, 2012 @11:36AM (#42348117)

    The interesting question is if they man-in-the-middle it.

  • Re:Havoc (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 20, 2012 @11:39AM (#42348163)

    What steganography techniques? Like masking your VPN link as streaming audio/video?

  • by Keruo ( 771880 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @11:42AM (#42348189)
    I'm assuming they're targetting commercial vpn providers rather than companies using VPN?
    If not, I'd like to get some address where to register corporate endpoints which should be excluded from filtering.
    Otherwise managing workstations and servers located in China might become rather tedious.
    Atleast this IPSEC VPN to China which I'm using to post this message seems to work just fine right now.
  • by cpghost ( 719344 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @11:51AM (#42348297) Homepage
    If you need a narrow band VPN, you could always encrypt it in such a way that it can't be detected by the sniffers. For example, use something like the technique used by port knocking, i.e. utilize the time domain for your encrypted channel. In other words, don't send encrypted data directly, just send regular data and modulate the time intervals between the packets to reflect your encrypted data.
  • Re:Havoc (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 20, 2012 @11:55AM (#42348339)
    Yes, basically. We created software which encapsulates the connection in another protocol and re-encodes the data, shoved it in a VM and put one here and over there. We made it modularised so we can create support for new protocols and encoding easily. It's slower and usually requires a higher tolerance latency and bandwidth configuration for the protocol you are tunnelling but I'm surprised we whipped it up so quickly and it works.
  • by jafo ( 11982 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @02:14PM (#42350219) Homepage

    Over about the last 2 weeks, one of our hosting clients OpenVPN connections to their machines in China have been failing. We can still SSH into the machine in China, glad they haven't blocked that. We ended up setting up a block of several hundred ports with DNAT to the normal OpenVPN port, and then set up 64 (the max allowed) servers in the client config so it can cycle between them. That's been effective so far.

    It took a while to figure out, because I was able to send test traffic via "date | nc -u server 1194", and that would go through, but the OpenVPN connection wouldn't.


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