China goes after unauthorised VPN access from local ISPs

The crackdown is part of 14-month campaign to clean up the country’s internet service provider market

China is going after unauthorised internet connections, including tools known as VPNs (virtual private networks) that can bypass China’s efforts to control the web.

The crackdown is part of 14-month campaign from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology that's meant to clean up the country’s internet service provider market

Unless authorised, internet service providers are forbidden from operating any “cross-border” channel business, including VPNs, the ministry said in a Sunday notice.

The announcement is a bit of rarity. The country has usually withheld from openly campaigning against VPN use, even as government censors have intermittently tried to squelch access to them in the past.

However, China has been steadily tightening control over the internet. Earlier this month, the country essentially extended its reach to local app stores operating in the country by forcing them to register with the government.

The action against VPNs will probably be alarming to businesses and local users in China who rely on them to access the internet unfiltered. Sites popular in the West such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have all been blocked in the country due to China’s strict censorship that targets anti-government views.

Sunday’s notice from China’s IT ministry essentially asks that internet backbone providers and ISPs “self-check” to weed out any unauthorised VPN use. But it’s unclear what affect this will have on third-party VPN providers, many of which operate in foreign countries, but also sell to customers in China.

For instance, sites such as SaferVPN, ExpressVPN and VyprVPN sell subscription-based services for around $10 a month or less. Despite China's censorship, these businesses are continually coming up with ways so that customers can access the unfiltered internet.

GreatFire.org, an activist group against China’s censorship, said Sunday's announcement probably has less to do with foreign VPN providers than local ones.

“I think actually that everyone is kind of misreading this info at the moment,” the group said over email. “I do not think that consumers are the ones who will get hit. Businesses who need unfettered access to the internet will suffer if their local provider decides not to provide this.”

Sunday’s notice said that local internet backbone providers in China can still offer private access lines for businesses to link with overseas offices.

However, use of those lines must be restricted for business purposes, and never linked with a data center or used to operate a telecommunication service. The Chinese backbone providers must also collect and establish user profiles for their customers.

In addition to the VPN issue, China’s IT ministry said on Sunday it will be investigating ISPs, internet data centers and content delivery networks for failing to receive the right business permits and operating in areas that exceed the intended scope.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?