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China: Testing for “Kill Switch” of the World Wide Web?

China's internet became an intranet for about two hours on April 12. All internet users in China could not access to the World Wide Web and were cut off from all overseas social networking sites and email services. Netizens believe it is a testing of the web censor for the “Kill Switch”.

According to local report [zh], the overseas access problem happened between 10:40 am and 12:20 pm and internet users could not access popular websites such as MSN, Gmail and App Store during the period. At the same time, Internet users from overseas could not access Chinese websites. At first, netizens speculated that the problem were caused by the China Telecom's infrastructure as a result of the recent Southeast Asia earthquake. But both Telecom companies, China Telecom and China Unicom have denied that the network failure were caused by infrastructure problems. Hence local expert concluded that it was a software issue.

There were no official explanation from the government on the access problem yet. C. Custer from Techasia believes that what had happened:

was a test of a new government “kill switch” that would allow it to quickly block access to all foreign websites and disrupt the use of VPNs that previously made it possible to circumvent China’s internet censorship system. The fact that some small VPN providers weren’t blocked and continued to operate as usual seems to indicate that bigger VPNs were probably targeted intentionally, since a real infrastructure disconnect between China and the rest of the world would block all VPN traffic, not just traffic from more well-known VPN services.

In light of the recent upheaval in China’s leadership and the upcoming Party congress that will decide who leads the country for the next generation, it makes some sense that the government might be interested in an emergency off button in case something gets out of hand.

In Sina Weibo, there are some discussions about the news and many agree with the “kill switch” testing theory [zh]:

@破破的桥:怀疑是在测试和升级盾。其实已经测试一个多月了,其它地方我不知道,但海外有些ip段(包括我所在的comcast network)访问中国频繁断网,这肯定不是硬件问题了。

@破破的桥: I guess it is a testing and upgrading of the Golden Shield. The testing has been going on for more than a month. My experience is that some overseas IP log (such as comcast network) have been interrupted. This is not a hardware problem.

BlueskyTang: 全国营运商网络都处于可监控、可管理中,通断随领导层意愿可任意实现

BlueskyTang: All Internet Service Providers are under control and monitor. The leaders can now switch off the Internet.

Feelyoo: 向伊朗学习。。。

Feelyoo: Learning from Iran….

文森王:未出现故障,只是在进行中国局域网测试

文森王:no infrastructure problem, just undergoing intranet testing.

(Thumbnail photo from Setyoufreenews.)

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