China to ban personal VPNs

The Chinese government has told state-owned telecoms companies to block individuals’ access to virtual private networks (VPNs) by 1 February 2018, according to media reports. The ban will greatly restrict individuals’ unfettered access to the Internet. VPNs have often been used to circumvent China’s Great Firewall and communicate securely with servers outside of China. The Chinese government has increasingly cracked down on them in pursuit of “Internet sovereignty”, or controlling online activity within China’s borders.

The ban on individual access to VPNs follows new rules introduced in June 2017 requiring companies wishing to use VPNs to apply to the government for permission. They also face strict rules on data transfers. Many foreign businesses have expressed concern at the implications for privacy, data protection and the security of their intellectual property. Possible workarounds may exist for technically proficient individuals, but average Internet users face being cut off from the free and open Internet.

Sources: Bloomberg News, “China Tells Carriers to Block Access to Personal VPNs by February” (10 July 2017); Washington Post, “Here’s China’s latest plan to keep its citizens from the open Internet” (10 July 2017)

Communications take quantum leap forward in China?

China’s ongoing project to develop an ‘unhackable’ quantum communications (QC) network, where communications cannot be intercepted without being detected, continues to move forward. The country is developing the world’s longest land-based QC network stretching 2,000 km between Beijing and Shanghai. It is being developed in the eastern city of Jinan, where a trial network of 200 terminals will enter service in August 2017. China intends to use it to enable ultra-secure communications for the government, military and commercial banks.

China has also reportedly demonstrated the first ground-to-orbit quantum teleportation (QT) using an experimental satellite. The test was conducted by “entangling” two photons, one on the ground and the other on the satellite, then using quantum physics to transmit information from one to the other at a distance of 500 km. While QT has previously been conducted through fibre-optic cables, a successful trial in space offers the prospect of ultra-secure wireless data communications. China’s claim has yet to be verified by other scientists.


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