No error here: Microsoft deploying Chinese censorship on global scale

Microsoft has responded to our research about Bing search results after initially responding with a “no comment”. We have actually already addressed most of their rebuttal in our original article. Here are the highlights. From Microsoft:

We’ve conducted an investigation of the claims raised by Greatfire.org. First, Bing does not apply China’s legal requirements to searches conducted outside of China. Due to an error in our system, we triggered an incorrect results removal notification for some searches noted in the report but the results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China.

We sent our research findings to Microsoft before publishing our blog post with an explicit query as to whether or not the odd search results were the result of a technical mistake. Microsoft originally responded by saying: “Thanks for your inquiry. We have no comment on this topic.”.

Microsoft says: “[T]he results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China”. This is simply not true. Please refer to the comparison chart in our original blog post. The Guardian confirmed our testing results concerning the 达赖喇嘛 (Dalai Lama) and did their own tests for 薄熙来 (Bo Xilai). The newspaper reported:

A search on Bing in Chinese for Bo Xilai (薄熙来), the former high-flying Chinese government official now serving life imprisonment for corruption, shows equally different results. The top search result is again Baidu Baike. Wikipedia is the third entry. There are no western reports on the politician on the front page. In English the search is topped by Wikipedia, then by stories from the New York Times, BBC and Financial Times.

A Google search in Chinese starts with the Wikipedia page and then several news articles chronicling his downfall from sources including the BBC and Voice of America.

Most results are partially censored and hard to detect if you don’t read Chinese. But we selected a term that is completely censored so that even a non-Chinese reader can easily confirm that the censorship exists. Please click this link to do your own testing.


This notice translates to “Due to legal obligations imposed by Chinese laws and regulations, we have removed the results for these search terms. For more information, please see here.”

In addition, Microsoft has failed to address our point on the censorship policy for international Bing in China. We have shown that this version is heavily censored but Microsoft has again failed to comment on this issue.

With regards to the freeweibo.com homepage being absent from Bing search results, our investigation indicates that at some time in the past the page was marked as inappropriate due to low quality or adult content. After review, we have determined the page is acceptable for inclusion in global search results.

Bing aims to provide a robust set of high-quality, relevant search results to our users. In doing so, Bing has extremely high standards that respect human rights, privacy and freedom of expression.

As we explained in our blog post, we tested a search for “FreeWeibo” with safe search turned off. If the setting is off, often a search engine will return adult content. Ever with safe search “off” our index is still not shown, which runs contrary to Microsoft’s explanation. You can easily verify this for yourself. First turn off safe search, then click this link to confirm that none of the results come from FreeWeibo.com.

Microsoft’s alternate claim is that our site is “low quality”. FreeWeibo.com is widely quoted and linked to by international media such as BBC and The Guardian. The website has a Google page rank of 5 out of 10 (by way of comparison, theguardian.com has a page rank of 7/10). FreeWeibo.com would be in no way marked as spam content.

Microsoft is a signatory to the Global Network Initiative, which is an effort by a multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy on the Internet. As part of our commitment to GNI, Microsoft follows a strict set of internal procedures for how we respond to specific demands from governments requiring us to block access to content. We apply these principles carefully and thoughtfully to our Bing version for the People’s Republic of China.

We are happy Microsoft has signalled its intention to operate according to GNI principles, but we again reiterate our call that they release a transparency report for Bing, worldwide. We also believe that this is the perfect time for Microsoft to drop its excessive global censorship policy on any version outside of China and International bing inside China.

This story shines a negative light on both Microsoft and China. We fully expect the Chinese authorities to continue with their draconian censorship practice. But for Microsoft, this is an enormous opportunity - do the right thing and stand up to Chinese censorship now. It has damaged your credibility with customers and China’s efforts to boost its image overseas.

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星期一, 1月 26, 2015

给鲁炜和中国网信办的公开信

2015年1月26日

中国,北京。

鲁炜先生:

在2015年1月22日, 您领导的中国网信办对我们发表的Outlook在中国遭中间人攻击的文章进行了公开回应。 在中国网信办的公开回应中,您的同事姜军说我们的指责是“无端臆测,纯属境外反华势力的造谣和污蔑“。

我们GreatFire.org成员对中国网信办的评论非常愤怒,我们在本公开信中逐条驳斥。

我们没有轻易指责中国网信办。我们收集了大量数据来支持我们的结论。很多报告都支持了我们的分析,包括了截图许多中国网民的报告和其他技术人员的独立分析

我们之前报道过对iCloud,雅虎,微软和谷歌进行的中间人攻击,每个公司都确认了中间人攻击的真实性。我们还邀请了其他技术人员对攻击数据进行了独立分析。 你可以阅读对每次攻击的独立分析: OutlookiCloud谷歌雅虎Github 。 每个分析结论都类似:

星期一, 1月 19, 2015

Outlook在中国遭中间人攻击

网络监测组织GreatFire于1月17日收到了报告,指微软电邮系统outlook在中国遭中间人攻击(MITM)。此次攻击针对通过移动设备上的邮件客户端收发outlook邮件的人士。该组织怀疑,此次攻击是审查部门在测试防火墙技术。

当中国用户通过电子邮件客户端(Ice-dove)进入outlook时,可看到以下证书:

Greatfire的测试证实了outlook确实遭到攻击:IMAP(交互邮件访问协议)与SMTP(简单邮件传输协议)都遭受了中间人攻击。但网站界面(https://outlook.com 和 https://login.live.com/)没有受到影响。这次攻击持续了大约一天,现在已经停止。

这种形式的攻击尤其狡猾:相比于通过浏览器,用户通过电子邮件客户端所接收到的警告非常不明显,更容易被忽略。如下图:

(从iphone默认电邮客户端接收到的错误样本)

当客户端试图自动检索信息时,用户只能看见一个突然弹出的警告。因为用户没有主动检索信息,大多数的用户在点击“继续”之前不会细想,却忽视了警告信息、或把警告信息归咎于网络连线的故障。如果用户真的点击了“继续”,他(她)所有的邮件、通讯录、密码都会被黑客所窃取。

星期五, 1月 09, 2015

GFW升级导致用户被“墙”到色情网站

网络审查监测组织Greatfire指出,中国的防火墙日前进行了升级,加入新的“墙”法,导致用户甚至被墙到色情网站。此次升级也导致许多翻墙工具失效。

此前,中国的网民在未使用翻墙工具的情况下,若要连接Facebook,Twitter和其他被封的网站,会被域名服务器污染系统导到一系列被封锁、或根本不存在的假IP地址。然后,用户将跳转到连接超时的页面。

但中国的域名服务器污染系统升级之后,在原有假IP地址的基础上,审查机构开始使用有相应网站的真IP地址。例如,https://support.dnspod.cn/Tools/tools/ 显示,如果中国网民试图在国内连接Facebook,用户可能登入一个随机的页面,如http://178.62.75.99

一位中国网民向Greatfire报告说,当他从中国连接Facebook时,他竟然连到了一个俄罗斯的网站,且完全与Facebook无关。另一位用户在推特上表示,当他试图连接一个VPN网站时,他被导到一个德国的成人网站。

在中国强力扫黄的大环境下,用户被导到成人网站,显得尤其讽刺。北京经常将“保护未成年人”作为网络审查的一个说辞。但在这个例子上,当用户想连接一个合法但被封锁的网站时,却被返回到被中国视为违法的成人网站。如果这不是审查方出错,是否意味着中国的审查机构是超越中国法律的?

此次中国的防火墙升级,有效地导致许多反DNS污染的工具失效。由于GFW此前仅适用小量的假IP,这些翻墙工具可容易跳过这些假IP,并绕过封锁连接到正确的IP地址。但由于现在GFW也使用有效的IP地址来进行污染,这样的翻墙原理也随之失效。

这也可能意味着,审查机构可能在试验新的隐藏审查的方法,通过将网民导到随机的可连接的页面,让用户以为是原网站出了问题。

中国网民对于连接超时并不陌生,许多人自然而然地将其与墙联系起来。Greatfire认为,当局可能希望,在一段过渡期后,网民将适应新的DNS污染模式。中国的许多网络服务提供商此前已经使用这种重新导向随机页面的方法,来向用户推送广告。

很显然,当局在不断地修补升级审查机制。Greatfire预期,在今后几个月内,GFW将有更多的变化。


星期三, 12月 31, 2014

CNNIC leadership change coincides with blocking of Gmail

On December 26, 2014, in an announcement posted on their website, a new chairperson for CNNIC was directly appointed by the Cyberspace Administration of China. The announcement of this appointment coincided with the complete blocking of Gmail.

Cyberspace Administration of China (中央网信办) is chaired by Lu Wei, “China’s web doorkeeper”. Lu Wei is also the vice chair of the Central Propaganda Department, according to his official resume.

chair.png

This office is directly responsible for the blocking of Gmail and other websites including Facebook, Twitter and Google.

CNNIC is China’s certification authority and operates the country’s domain name registry. 

What are certificates used for?

Certificates are used primarily to verify the identity of a person or device, authenticate a service, or encrypt files. 

What is a certification authority (CA)?  

星期二, 12月 30, 2014

Gmail completely blocked in China

All Google products in China have been severely disrupted since June of this year and Chinese users have not been able to access Gmail via its web interface since the summer. However, email protocols such as IMAP, SMTP and POP3 had been accessible but are not anymore. These protocols are used in the default email app on iPhone, Microsoft Outlook on PC and many more email clients.

On December 26, GFW started to block large numbers of IP addresses used by Gmail. These IP addresses are used by IMAP/SMTP/POP3. Chinese users now have no way of accessing Gmail behind the GFW. Before, they could still send or receive emails via email clients even though Gmail's web interface was not accessible. 

Google's own traffic chart shows a sharp decline of Chinese traffic to Gmail. 

Below is a ping request to the Gmail SMTP server, which is completely inaccessible in China.

 

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