China’s ‘Great Cannon’ Lets Internet Censors Hack Sites Abroad

China's 'Great Cannon' Lets Internet Censors Hack Sites Abroad

The attacks have the ability to knock out international websites offline

A cybersecurity report released on Friday revealed how the “offensive system” developed by the Chinese Internet sensors works. This system apparently makes it possible for the censors to make the international websites appear offline and also install malicious software on computers globally. This new system is being called the Great Cannon and is said to be more effective and stronger than the pre-existing Great Wall of China. The Great Wall on the other hand has been in place since a very long time and has proved to be an effective tool to censor media critical of Beijing.

Recently, the Chinese version of the New York Times had been knocked and the Citizen Lab report claims that the Great Cannon was used to initiate these attacks. The system was able to pull this off using a very evolved version of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack which is known to occur when internet traffic from thousands of computers have been directed to a single website. This automatically overwhelms the target page with so many requests which become difficult for it to handle and as a result is fails to retain its online status.

The DDoS attack has also knocked GitHub which is a San Francisco based codign website. The website had remained offline for a few days. The report hasn’t been able to put a finger on a particular name responsible behind these attacks but has only stated that there is “compelling and reproducible evidence” which points a finger towards the Chinese government. The government officials however have denied all such accusations.

“The operational deployment of the Great Cannon represents a significant escalation in state-level information control: the normalization of widespread use of an attack tool to enforce censorship by weaponizing users,” the report states. “Specifically, the Cannon manipulates the traffic of ‘bystander’ systems outside China, silently programming their browsers to create a massive DDoS attack. While employed for a highly visible attack [in the GreatFire case], the Great Cannon clearly has the capability for use in a manner similar to the [National Security Agency’s Quantum] system, affording China the opportunity to deliver exploits targeting any foreign computer that communicates with any China-based website not fully utilizing HTTPS [Hypertext Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer].”


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