China directs users to approved VPNs as firewall tightens

January 30, 2018
A man uses a computer in an internet cafe in Beijing: China is tightening controls by curbing the use of VPNs

China vowed Tuesday to force both local and foreign companies and individuals to use only government-approved software to access the global internet, as overseas firms fear losing unrestricted online services under an impending deadline.

International companies and individuals have been fretting for months over whether Beijing would enforce new regulations curbing the use of (VPN).

The content accessible on China's domestic is highly restricted. Google, Facebook and other foreign websites such as the New York Times and the BBC, and some email services, are blocked by the country's Great Firewall of censorship.

One way to bypass the controls is by using a VPN, which can allow users to the unfiltered . This is where authorities are cracking down.

In January last year the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced it would be banning the use of unlicensed VPNs, with a deadline of March 31, 2018 to complete the crackdown.

MIIT chief engineer Zhang Feng told a news conference Tuesday that unapproved VPN operators are the target of the regulations.

For those "VPNs which unlawfully conduct cross-border operational activities, we want to regulate this", Zhang said.

Many foreign individuals and businesses currently use VPN services unapproved by Chinese regulators. They are on tenterhooks as to whether China will shut down these service providers.

The inability to access certain online tools, internet censorship and cybersecurity are major headaches for , according to a survey of US companies conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in China and released Tuesday.

Last summer tech giant Apple restricted its Chinese customers' access to VPNs in the country, removing dozens of apps from its app store.

In December, a man in southern China was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for selling a VPN service on Alibaba's Taobao and other marketplaces.

The new rules drive customers who want to access the global internet to approved state providers like China Mobile and China Unicom.

Those who want to access the global internet "can rent lines or networks from business operators which have set up international entry and exit ports in accordance with the law", Zhang said.

He dismissed concerns that using China's state-approved providers could jeopardise the security of business and individual data.

"These telecommunications enterprises only provide you with a channel, or a network, and are not able to see information related to your business," he said.

Explore further: China's web users fear losing tools to bypass 'Great Firewall'

Related Stories

China detains man for service to evade internet firewall

September 18, 2017

Chinese authorities have detained a software developer for selling computer services that allow internet users to evade China's "Great Firewall," which blocks access to thousands of websites, from Facebook to Twitter to some ...

Apple removes some VPN services from Chinese app store

July 30, 2017

Apple has removed software allowing internet users to skirt China's "Great Firewall" from its app store in the country, the company confirmed Sunday, sparking criticism that it was bowing to Beijing's tightening web censorship.

China jails seller of VPN services

December 22, 2017

A Chinese entrepreneur has been sentenced to 5 ½ years in prison for selling virtual private network service, a government newspaper said, as Beijing tries to stamp out use of technology that evades its internet filters.

Recommended for you

A novel approach of improving battery performance

September 18, 2018

New technological developments by UNIST researchers promise to significantly boost the performance of lithium metal batteries in promising research for the next-generation of rechargeable batteries. The study also validates ...

Germany rolls out world's first hydrogen train

September 17, 2018

Germany on Monday rolled out the world's first hydrogen-powered train, signalling the start of a push to challenge the might of polluting diesel trains with costlier but more eco-friendly technology.

Technology streamlines computational science projects

September 15, 2018

Since designing and launching a specialized workflow management system in 2010, a research team from the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has continuously updated the technology to help computational ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.