China experiences two-hour cutoff from foreign websites, spawning "kill switch" and other hypotheses.

Posted: 13 Apr 2012   Print   Send a link
Asia Times, 14 Apr 2012, Martin J. Young: "The Great Firewall of China came into full force this week when the country was virtually cut off from the rest of the world as the government cracked down on rumors and speculation over the recent scandal involving a top Communist Party leader whose wife is now accused of murdering a British businessman. The world's largest Internet population, 500 million strong, found itself walled in on Thursday when they could not access any foreign websites outside of China. Web users in Hong Kong were also affected as they could not access Chinese websites - the People's Republic became a digital island for a few hours."

The Guardian, 12 Apr 2012, Tania Branigan: "China's internet users have been cut off from accessing all foreign websites for around an hour in an unexplained incident that sparked speculation the country's censorship system was being tested or further tightened."

ZDNet, 13 Apr 2012, Hana Stewart-Smith: Some "have suggested that the temporary outage might have been a test run of an emergency ‘kill switch’, in case extreme measures need to be taken in the ongoing crackdown of the Chinese Internet. According to Tech in Asia, VPNs that had previously allowed Internet users to get around the Great Firewall were down, but that smaller VPN providers seemed to be unscathed. This could suggest a deliberate targeting of such services, but at the moment, we can only speculate. Admittedly, it does seem as though such a ‘kill switch’ would be extreme and far-fetched. However, the absence of clearer explanations lends the theory some credibility. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has been silent over the blackout, and so have much of the state-run media."

Wall Street Journal, China Realtime Report, 13 Apr 2012, Paul Mozur: CloudFlare "engineers also found that, contrary to what would be expected if the blackout were due to an equipment failure or break in an undersea cable – as many originally speculated after Wednesday’s magnitude 8.6 earthquake near Indonesia – only certain types of data had stopped flowing. China Telecom and China Unicom HTTP traffic – connections between clients and sites directly – mostly stopped, but other types of traffic that flow through different ports like Skype calls, email transfers and DNS traffic (which functions like a phone book to link a web address with an IP address) continued to flow."

PolicyMic, 13 Apr 2012, Liz Alton: "If China takes down the internet in order to maintain a facade of social control, not only does it stand to drive activists and the international community to more drastic action, but it stands to cripple its own economic machine."