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China: Locking down IDC server rooms for the Olympics

While Chinese webmasters wait to see if the Olympics will bring tightened reins on the internet as is widely expected, more specific documents have recently appeared online which suggest part of Beijing's Olympic Plan is to place controls over Chinese internet data centers of severity that hasn't been seen since enormous chunks of the Chinese internet quietly went dark in a similar move nearly a year ago.

In a PDF document dated simply July 2008 from the Shanghai Branch of China Netcom hosted on the Shanghai-based IDC GEIS technology website, we find the ‘IDC Entry and Exit Management Regulations for the Olympic Period Server Lockdown‘:

Dear Client, Hello!

Thank you for your support of the company. We are delighted to provide you with the most satisfying and speediest service.

To ensure China Netcom network stability and safe operation of existing IDC server farm equipment during the Olympic Period, the company's Shanghai branch has drawn up management regulations for the Olympic Period Server Lockdown to be uniformly implemented beginning on the day of The Server Lockdown until further e-mail notice. Your company is is hereby informed of the IDC Management Regulations for the Olympic Period Server Lockdown, please comply.

1. Business Operations and Visitations

1.1 During the Server Lockdown Period, the IDC will stop all new business operations.
1.2 During the Server Lockdown Period, the IDC will stop all client visitation activities.

2. Regulations on Entry and Exit of IDC Client Equipment

2.1 If during the Server Lockdown Period there occurs system breakdown or hardware malfunction of client equipment, clients may carry out emergency replacement. Clients need to explain the nature of the breakdown and China Netcom Operation Maintenance will carry out sampling checks. Standard replacements will be of identical equipment or the equivalent quantity.
2.2 The processing of routine incoming or outgoing equipment transactions will cease for the Olympic Server Lockdown Period.
2.3 No pre-appointments need be made for emergency equipment replacement and can be handled same-day by fax.
2.4 Equipment replacement during the Olympic Period requires specially authorized personnel for on-site processing.

3. Maintenance Guidelines for Personnel

3.1 Clients are encouraged to make utmost use of remote operation for server maintenance.
3.2 All clients, aside from needing long-term authorization for the Olympic Period, also need to update their Olympic Period Specially Authorized Personnel List with Netcom, as Netcom will be making uniform display IDs. Specially authorized personnel must bring their own shenfenzheng and be wearing their display ID before they will be allowed to enter the IDC server maintenance room.
3.3 Maintenance details will need to be written down on-site and approved, explaining the reason for malfunction, the situation, and recovery plan.
3.4 Equipment manufacturers and other non-Olympic Period Authorized Personnel wishing to enter the server room need to follow company special approval procedures with the corresponding sales manager.
3.5 For the duration of the Olympic Server Lockdown Period, every client company is restricted to no more than three maintenance personnel in the server room at the same time.

For further assistance, please phone the China Netcom Key Client Service Hotline: (8621) 10069 or via e-mail: acceptsh@cnc.cn

Moving west, a similar notice dated July 14 has been put up on the Chongqing-based IDC CANIDC:

Notice Regarding Olympic Period IDC Server Room Lockdown

Dear All Users and Partners,

In accordance with the relevant National Olympic Safeguard requirements and instructions for telecommunication and internet companies, Chongqing Telecom (including Fuling Telecom) will from July 20, 2008 begin a complete server lockdown of all IDC server rooms, to conclude at further notice. For the duration of the server lockdown, all operational activities and all network-related operations (such as: network adjustment, machine replacement, IP switching, installation of new servers etc.) will cease, though mainframe breakdown repair procedures will not be affected.

Also: for the duration of the Olympics, all users and partners are asked to reinforce information safety management and prevent the appearance of any illegal or illicit information, with strict attention paid to Olympics information.

Thank you for your cooperation and support!

And back to GEIS in Shanghai, we find yet this other notice apparently straight out of Beijing, dated July 15:

Olympics Server Lockdown Notice for all Server Rooms

In accordance with the work arrangements set out for China Telecom, China Netcom and China Mobile in “Notice Regarding the Carrying Out of Beijing Games Server Lockdown Work”, in order to ensure smooth communications and network information security for the duration of the Beijing Olympic Games, from the opening through to the closing of the Beijing Olympic Games, the clear-cut network lockdown management work to be carried out on information networks goes as follows:

1. Server lockdown period: For China Netcom and China Mobile, July 20-August 28, 2008. For China Telecom, August 1-25, 2008.

2. The above server lockdown plan is the server lockdown plan for the duration of the Beijing Olympic Games.

3. For the duration of this server lockdown period, except for network-related malfunctions, no requests for equipment or personnel entry or exit will be accepted. If equipment damage occurs, this company will assist in arranging for a replacement.

4. All clients are asked to place high importance on Beijing Olympic Games information security safeguarding work, base work plans on the actual situation, and ensure the smooth completion of information security safeguarding work for the duration of the Beijing Olympic Games.

You are hereby informed!

All users are asked to understand and be supportive for any inconvenience this brings!

While we can only wait and see just what “smooth communication” inconveniences are in store for the Olympic Games, tech blogger Ruan Yifeng today brings us this personal experience in his post, ‘One scene in the data center’:

This afternoon, I withstood the 35 degree heat and went to Shanghai Telecom's server center to take out a server that I've had stored there for three (four?) years already, and I came across something I never imagined.

There, unexpectedly, at the gate, were police! Four in total, all in plainclothes, one of which was in the process of filling out a “notification to collect evidence” form. I snuck a peek,and the sending danwei was the Beijing Haidian Office Criminal Investigation Squad.

A bit later, I removed my server, and was prepared to leave. The police were watching me, and one of them said to another one, “that's not ours.”

This incident scared me. Before this, I only knew that servers could be ordered to be unplugged by “the higher authority departments”, but I never thought I'd see with my own eyes a maching being taken away by police.

Yet, how on earth could a server be evidence for anything?

Afterwards, I was thinking it over, and for them to do this there can only be two possibilities: one is to prove that illegal material exists on the server, and the other is to prove that a certain person has visited this server. The way I see it, unless fraud is somehow involved, regardless of which of those possibilities it is, it couldn't have been something illegal.

To run a website in China is truly sad; your server can be taken away at any time, and you go through every day never knowing what could happen next.

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