China Where Citizens Get around Internet Censorship

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By Art Reisman

Over the years I have written a few articles on the perils of investing in deep packet inspection, and its coming obsolescence . One of my main points has been that tech savvy users in the US can bypass attempts to identify their traffic using encryption, thus reducing deep packet inspection firewalls into semi-comatose paper weights.

Sources for my blog articles came mostly from talking to hundreds of customers based in the US.  I have had scant information on China. My understanding of Chinese bandwidth shaping comes mostly from what I read in the papers. I have read about government sponsored censorship, plus a few of my US ex-pat customers in China have told me that there are many websites where they have been blocked.  They also have to be careful about what they say online.  I really had no idea if the average Chinese citizen resisted Internet censorship or not.

That was until a chance meeting last week.

On a plane flight from Denver to Charlotte,  I had the privilege to sit next to a recent Chinese college graduate who is currently teaching Chinese at a school here in the US. She was not a techie by any means, but obviously familiar with all the electronic social media tools that we use in the US.  I asked her if there was any problem with Internet censorship when she was in china, and before I could finish my sentence, she shrugged and half scolded me for being so “western stupid”.

We have very easy way to bypass the censorship, we use the” …. she stammered trying to come up with the English word… and then I finished her sentence . “You mean the VPN”, and then I showed her the VPN icon on my computer and she said “yes, yes, everybody does this.

Wow, what a windfall of a data point!  She obviously had no idea I had been preaching that Layer 7 was dead because VPNs cannot be easily cracked.

Even though this was just one data point and one person, I think I can infer that the use of VPN tunneling is probably widespread in China to avert China’s censorship. Another nail in the coffin of Deep Packet Inspection technology.

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