Chinese internet users use VPN servers to breach the ‘Great Firewall of China’

Paid virtual private networks (VPNs) are quietly catching on in China as a way to access forbidden websites, analysts say, while authorities are leaving them alone until they become more popular. VPNs designed for secure Internet use in offices have spread over the past half year among expatriates and tech-savvy Chinese since the popular social networking website Facebook was blocked. Twitter and YouTube are also blocked in China, which uses a filtering “firewall” to block Internet users from overseas website content that challenges the Communist Party. Chinese authorities seldom block foreign-based paid VPNs and are likely to leave them be as long as the number of users stays small, a veteran IT analyst in Beijing said. The government aggressively shuts down free proxy servers, which can also unblock forbidden sites and are more widespread. Paid foreign VPNs have been blocked just once, ahead of National Day in October last year, users say. About 10 foreign VPN services are popular in China, but there are no estimates on the number of users, China IT analysts say. VPNs work as overlays on top of larger computer networks, using encryption to make private traffic safe in the less secure environment of the Internet. But technical and cost obstacles could stall growth in China’s VPN use outside offices, analysts say. Some VPNs bring Internet browsers to a crawl or require users to make tough changes to their computer systems before working at all, they say, while Chinese nationals without foreign currency credit cards often have no way to pay for them


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