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Censorship China Communications Privacy Security The Internet Technology

China Blocks WhatsApp (theverge.com) 104

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: China has blocked WhatsApp, security experts confirmed today to The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled). Over the past few months, WhatsApp has experienced brief disruptions to service, with users unable to send video chats or photos. Now, even text messages are completely blocked, according to Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Symbolic Software, a Paris-based research firm that also monitors digital censorship in China. Kobeissi found that China may have recently upgraded its firewall to detect and block the NoiseSocket protocol that WhatsApp uses to send texts, in addition to already blocking the HTTPS/TLS that WhatsApp uses to send photos and videos. He said, "I think it took time for the Chinese firewall to adapt to this new protocol so that it could also target text messages." His company noticed the app disruptions beginning last Wednesday.
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China Blocks WhatsApp

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  • So what can be used instead if you need end to end encryption? Signal might work, but I'd be surprised if it isn't blocked. Tor has a chat client now, but I don't think it works on iOS or Android. Keybase.io has a nice client that might work.

    • Re:alternatives? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by green1 ( 322787 ) on Monday September 25, 2017 @05:51PM (#55262367)

      There is no alternative. Sure there may be some apps that they aren't blocking yet, but that's not truly a long term solution.

      You can't solve an oppressive regime by building better encryption. If enough people are getting around the firewall the regime will just crack down on whatever method they're using. If there are too many methods, they might switch to a whitelist instead of a blacklist, or they could take the approach of some governments and just ban internet access altogether.

      The government of a country has effectively unlimited resources when being compared to the individual citizens of that country. And if they don't have enough resources, they'll just take the resources they need from those same citizens.

      When your government is working against you, there is no safe and sustainable way to work around them.

      • Just use irc over ssh. No way they'd block ssh. That'd make system administration a pain for everyone including them :P
        • Re: alternatives? (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Last time I checked ssh out of China was throttled to the point of connection time outs.

        • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

          AFAIK great firewall throttles ssh to point of uselessness, unless you're on the whitelist (i.e. a major company with special exemption).

    • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

      So what can be used instead if you need end to end encryption?

      Software can "prevent" MitM attacks in the sense of detecting when they're attempted and then refusing to work. But it can't really prevent a MitM attacker who says "let me MitM or else I'll make things stop working."

      Solutions are hard. Here are some:

      Use different physical links that don't go through their firewall. e.g. run a cable or use radios across their border.

      Kill them or vote them out, until you have a more human-friendly regime.

      (Ok, here

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      One time pad by hand. Dont reuse. Take photo of code as part of a much larger image. That removes the encoding and decoding risk from any OS or product.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    to protect us against hackers and people like Snowden and Wikileaks

  • There were only two expected outcomes here: either WhatsApp folds and gives China's government backdoor access to their application or they get blocked. The only thing this means is that they have opted for the highroad and got themselves blocked. I would be far more concerned about the applications that China's government acknowledges that they allow.

    • They could take the higher ground still and get into a 'tech battle.' Make the protocol harder to block, set up dynamic servers on public clouds. It'd be pretty much burning every bridge to doing business in China, but those bridges are not looking very dependable right now anyway. China does have a strongly protectionist attitude - even if WhatsApp complied, the government would still penalize them in favor of any Chinese-owned competitor.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Whatsapp has nothing to gain in China if it gives in to pressure. It's only use case is "secure" communication with the world. China already has a completely dominant messenger app called WeChat that does everything from chatting to ordering food and instant payment. Of course WeChat is an open book to the Chinese government. Whatsapp cannot ever hope to make it big in China. Giving backdoor access to the Chinese government would jeopardize any semblance of trust they have in other countries and give away i

    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      It's not about backdoors. Chinese control communications on much greater level, such as policing content directly. Remember, there is no freedom of speech in China.

  • Well (Score:5, Funny)

    by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Monday September 25, 2017 @05:45PM (#55262331)
    I block China! So there! :-D
  • While i think the removal of the repressive Chinese Government from power is the only real solution to all this. One way is to support additional protocols to support libpurple (the library responsible for Pidgin) and the XMPP Application Spectrum 2. This allows Android XMPP Clients to talk XMPP to a jabber instance, and the XMPP host to use libpurple for the other protocol.

    But there are no technical solutions around bad governments. The Chinese should push for a Secular Humanist Democratic reform of China.

    • While i think the removal of the repressive Chinese Government from power is the only real solution to all this.

      Solution to what? WhatsApp is a product of the Zuckerberg tyranny, so this could be considered a good thing to a lot of people.
      ..

    • by lwmv ( 2712755 )
      Reform is not free. It need tons of money. They'd be happy if you guys could donate a couple of bucks to support them.
  • Make your network and do not worry about locks. Your internet pager http://helpsetup.ru/internet/b... [helpsetup.ru]
  • by aberglas ( 991072 ) on Monday September 25, 2017 @07:13PM (#55262757)

    He has been suppressing all forms of criticism and descent, of which this is just a small part. He is aggressively using technology to control people. And they even recently released a document recently denouncing civil society and democratic values.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    The US fears them because the US owes China too much money. (Clinton talked about upsetting one's banker. Trump just doesn't know where China is.)

    The Australians fear China because China owes Australia too much money. They are by far our largest trading partner.

    The Europeans are incapable of any action at all without the US leading the way.

    The North Korea crisis (I use the word carefully) is all about China. Yet nobody dares to say so. That could end very badly.

    But the real fear is that China now has a large middle class. They cannot go back to the cultural revolution of th 1960s. When their economy stops growing at a fantastic rate (which it must) people will demand reform. Totalitarianism results in incompetence, nepotism and corruption. If Xi et. al. push back, there will eventually be trouble. Big trouble. By which time it will be too late for us to have any influence.

    Incidentally, Chinese students are a major Australian export to China. But the Chinese recently warned that those undertaking an Australian education would become "incompatible with Chinese values". Chilling stuff.

    • Totalitarianism results in incompetence, nepotism and corruption.

      You say that as if Democracy doesn't? Bush, Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Trump, Trump Trump, Trump, Kushner...

      • by aberglas ( 991072 ) on Monday September 25, 2017 @09:07PM (#55263241)

        I get sick of people whingeing saying that we are just as bad as the totalitarian regime like China (or N Korea!). There is no comparison.

        Sure, we only get the politicians we deserve. But we get to vote them out when they run too far off the rails. We get liberties unknown to the Chinese.

        Our system is far from perfect. But at least we can all help to improve it.

        • Our system is far from perfect. But at least we can all help to improve it.

          So the latest election improved things in your opinion?

        • by Agripa ( 139780 )

          I get sick of people whingeing saying that we are just as bad as the totalitarian regime like China (or N Korea!). There is no comparison.

          Sure, we only get the politicians we deserve. But we get to vote them out when they run too far off the rails. We get liberties unknown to the Chinese.

          Our system is far from perfect. But at least we can all help to improve it.

          My standard of comparison is not "we are better than China".

        • I get sick of people whingeing saying that we are just as bad as the totalitarian regime like China (or N Korea!).

          Your statement was that "Totalitarianism results in incompetence, nepotism and corruption", I merely pointed out that you get this with Democracy too, as demonstrated by the last 30 years of US politics.
          Totalitarianism has a lot of bad side effects, but incompetence, nepotism and corruption is hardly unique to it.

    • This is such a ridiculous baizuo way of looking at China. So many wrong assumptions.

      "Totalitarianism results in incompetence, nepotism and corruption." China isn't totalitarian, they don't control every facet of your life. They're authoritarian, because they don't allow the people a voice. Hey, nothing wrong with that, lots of Americans don't think we should allow the people a voice either, after their disgraceful performance in the 2016 election.

      "If Xi et. al. push back, there will eventually be tr

      • The fight against corruption is largely a fight against Xis enemies. Most of the princelings are corrupt to various degrees. The ones that get prosecuted are the ones that could threaten Xi.

        For all its many faults, democracy does get rid of bad governments peacefully. It is a serious error to underestimate its importance.

        • Dumbocracy elected Donald Trump. Dumbocracy produced Brexit. Sorry, the system doesn't work and needs to be discarded in favor of a more modern, educated system based less on what morons think and more on what smart people think. The New York Times praised the Chinese system and wondered why we can't have it in America. As time goes on and it outperforms the American system, more and more people around the world take note. Look at China's highspeed rail: completely impossible in America because all the

          • by rerogo ( 1839428 )

            Sure, it created high speed rail, but it also seized a bunch of landowners' land. In some moral systems, this is completely unforgivable, regardless of any benefit derived.

            Positive outcomes are in the eye of the beholder.

    • Trump talked big game about China during the election, but has done absolutely nothing about China in the 8 months he has been president. Well, I guess thats not totally true he withdrew from the TPP which was formed mostly as a bulwark against China. Not really sure what he is doing, could be that Jared is making too much money off of China [cnn.com], could be that Trump needs Chinese money to fund more irresponsible tax cuts, could be because he is profoundly lazy, probably a combination of those factors.
  • IIRC regular folks originally did word-of-mouth marketing for Whatsapp as an SMS-replacer in the third world. Like other proprietary TCP IP services, it can do much more, but I hate the confusion of insituating that web streams and messengers ARE texts and phonecalls. One crucial factor in the confusion is the growing association of accounts with address books and phone numbers (though the system doesn't use phone lines and is a veiled trick to gain marketing data in the guise of simplicity)

    Web companies in

  • No surprise when something like this comes from China, but here in Croatia our traffic minister wanted to ban the Uber app (because just banning the Uber service isn't enough when you're a clueless luddite moron). He didn't gave any info how he's going to enforce the ban - even if local ISPs were forced to block the app everyone would be able to download it through VPNs.

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