VPN ban makes for nervy times behind Great Firewall

'Internet Monitoring Team' threatens disconnection for accessing 'prohibited sites'


Multinationals and foreign web users based in China to get jittery on Wednesday after pictures began circling the internet which suggested a new clamp down on the use of virtual private networks (VPNs).

While VPNs in the Western world are more commonly used to enhance security, for netizens-in-the-know living in the People’s Republic they represent an essential tool for bypassing the Great Firewall, which blocks many foreign sites and services including Twitter, Facebook and, periodically, Gmail.

As such, they can also be important for the continuing productivity of foreign firms operating inside China, ensuring unfettered access for employees to the world wide web, although just how important will depend on the type of company. However, China Digital Times has got its hands on two photos posted to Google+ last week, which depict signs in a business centre in the Shandong capital of Jinan.

The first, written by the Orwellian sounding “Jinan City Internet Monitoring Team”, warns that some staff have been found “privately logging on to prohibited websites”.

“Upon discovering such activity, the violator’s internet access will be directly cut off and the police will be notified,” it continues.

The second sign apparently reads as follows:

Warning. In order to eliminate access to prohibited websites through use of VPN software by internal staff, starting today, the VPN function will now be disabled. For those who must use a VPN to access the internet, after preparing your file, go to D1 (88885681) and ask a technician to help set up your connection.

There’s of course no suggestion that this hard line approach will be mirrored throughout the People’s Republic, or even throughout Shandong province.

However, it serves to highlight once again the precipitous nature of doing business in China and the unique tech challenges this throws up.

VPN companies were deliberately disrupted and their services blocked during the politically sensitive Communist Party Congress earlier this month, for example.

In addition, reports emerged last year that IT departments in some companies had been forced to warn staff not to use VPNs for accessing overseas web sites as it could result in the authorities black-listing their corporate IP addresses. ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Despite global uncertainty, $500m hit doesn't rattle Nvidia execs
    CEO acknowledges impact of war, pandemic but says fundamentals ‘are really good’

    Nvidia is expecting a $500 million hit to its global datacenter and consumer business in the second quarter due to COVID lockdowns in China and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Despite those and other macroeconomic concerns, executives are still optimistic about future prospects.

    "The full impact and duration of the war in Ukraine and COVID lockdowns in China is difficult to predict. However, the impact of our technology and our market opportunities remain unchanged," said Jensen Huang, Nvidia's CEO and co-founder, during the company's first-quarter earnings call.

    Those two statements might sound a little contradictory, including to some investors, particularly following the stock selloff yesterday after concerns over Russia and China prompted Nvidia to issue lower-than-expected guidance for second-quarter revenue.

    Continue reading
  • Another AI supercomputer from HPE: Champollion lands in France
    That's the second in a week following similar system in Munich also aimed at researchers

    HPE is lifting the lid on a new AI supercomputer – the second this week – aimed at building and training larger machine learning models to underpin research.

    Based at HPE's Center of Excellence in Grenoble, France, the new supercomputer is to be named Champollion after the French scholar who made advances in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs in the 19th century. It was built in partnership with Nvidia using AMD-based Apollo computer nodes fitted with Nvidia's A100 GPUs.

    Champollion brings together HPC and purpose-built AI technologies to train machine learning models at scale and unlock results faster, HPE said. HPE already provides HPC and AI resources from its Grenoble facilities for customers, and the broader research community to access, and said it plans to provide access to Champollion for scientists and engineers globally to accelerate testing of their AI models and research.

    Continue reading
  • Workday nearly doubles losses as waves of deals pushed back
    Figures disappoint analysts as SaaSy HR and finance application vendor navigates economic uncertainty

    HR and finance application vendor Workday's CEO, Aneel Bhusri, confirmed deal wins expected for the three-month period ending April 30 were being pushed back until later in 2022.

    The SaaS company boss was speaking as Workday recorded an operating loss of $72.8 million in its first quarter [PDF] of fiscal '23, nearly double the $38.3 million loss recorded for the same period a year earlier. Workday also saw revenue increase to $1.43 billion in the period, up 22 percent year-on-year.

    However, the company increased its revenue guidance for the full financial year. It said revenues would be between $5.537 billion and $5.557 billion, an increase of 22 percent on earlier estimates.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022