China's crackdown on VPNs affects internet access

Bill Boyle
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VPN provider Vpntech Runo has had to shut down its website after the Chinese authorities launched a crack down on VPN usage as an anti-fraud measure

Vpntech Runo said in an email sent to its subscribers this week that the Chinese government seems to have started cleaning up VPN services as part of its actions against telecom fraud on the Chinese mainland. That could be the reason why the domain of the Vpntech Runo website “…has been blocked frequently...” claimed the company’s statement.

Supervision of VPN services has been used to effectively curb cyber crimes, Chinese security experts said Monday.

"Under such circumstances, we decided to shut down the website from October 9 and you will not be able to purchase the service or make any enquiries. Some other VPN services may also be affected," said the company.

However, a customer service staff member at Astrill, another leading VPN provider, told the Global Times on Monday that "Astrill is working fine in China."

"VPN service could be used as a springboard by cyber criminals to spread pornography, run gambling business, and even conduct fraud in China," Qin An, a cyber-security expert at the China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy, told the Global Times. "Chinese authorities have been making efforts to curb cyber crimes and effective management of VPN providers is a part of the effort," he noted.

Shen Yi, deputy director of the cyberspace management center at Fudan University, was quoted as saying that it is very likely that the cyber outlaws take advantage of VPN services to access blocked websites and carry out attacks on the mainland.

Shen called for VPN providers to shoulder the responsibility.

When a user connects to an international VPN server, the actual IP address is masked and one of the VPN’s IP addresses is what is shown, mimicking an IP address of the country you’ve selected. This is what allows VPN users to experience the web as if they were sitting in your location of choice.

However, over 65 countries around the world censor the internet, and according to The Freedom House’sFreedom on the Net” 2015 report, the level of Internet Freedom is declining.

China is the most notorious example. Commonly known as the Great Firewall of China, China’s vast web of internet censorship is among the most extensive in the world. The most popular social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, YouTube, Dropbox, Flickr and Instagram, are blocked. So are apps such as Google, along with Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Drive. China’s Great Firewall is so restrictive that China’s Great Firewall inventor, Fang Binxing, was forced to use a VPN to bypass his very own creation when he once gave a lecture on Internet safety

Companies running a VPN business in China must register with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and unregistered VPN service providers are not protected by Chinese laws.