China Blocks VPN Services That Skirt Censors' Reach

Jan 24, 2015 12:00 PM PST

BEIJING — China has begun blocking VPN (virtual private network) services in an apparent bid to further censor the Internet.

Many VPNs are either completely unavailable or intermittently available in the country, according to the Financial Times.

VPN services, which cost about $5 here, have become essential to access blocked foreign websites, including porn and social networking sites.

The services allow a user to create a private pipeline to the Internet, bypassing China's online censors.

Runox.us, a Chinese VPN provider, told the Financial Times that it started experiencing problems on New Year’s Eve and says that it expects the present disruptions to be “a long-term measure.”

Astrill, another provider, tweeted out that "due to increased censorship in China," VPN usage on Apple devices was being blocked "in almost real-time."

The disruptions follow the intermittent blocking of Google’s Gmail on third-party services in December. Google’s websites were blocked in China last June.  

Sunday Yokubaitis, president of VPN provider Golden Frog, said the blockages of VPNs this week are “more sophisticated than what we've seen in the past" but that only some of Golden Frog's server locations have been affected.

Golden Frog users in China are still able to reach its servers in Japan, South Korea and Europe.

They can then use those servers as a jumping off point to freely browse the web, Yokubaitis said.

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