Full Access: How the Chinese Surf the Unfiltered Web

Tiananmen Square:

a square in the center of Beijing adjacent to the Forbidden City, the largest public open space in the world.

Open your Mac. Highlight the words, “Tiananmen Square.” Place the cursor over those highlighted words and tap once on the trackpad with three fingers. The above definition should appear regardless of where you are in the world. It is certainly innocent enough, and a rather proud claim for China.

However, when one does just a bit more digging, even that most proud and innocent of descriptions are brought into question. Other sources rank the Square as the fourth largest town square in the world. That seems to be at odds with the claim of being the largest public space. In most sporting events, fourth place doesn’t even get you on the podium.

The question is, what information about Tiananmen Square is available to the Chinese people. In America, it is a trivial matter to load up a web browser, bring up a search engine, and type in a query. Sorting through the information could keep a person busy for weeks. No detail is left out. No speculation is forbidden. Every true fact and controversial opinion is there for the reading. In China, the same cannot be said.

The bulk of the Chinese people lack the full access to the Internet that is freely available in other parts of the world. There are many reasons for this filtering. But for many Chinese citizens, the reasons do not matter. In a world where economies and politics are becoming ever more globalized, it is more important than ever that participants have full access to the information that drives those economies and politics. A citizen of the world denied full access is a citizen denied full participation. Here are a few of the methods being used to gain full access to the world’s biggest repository of unfiltered information:

Securing the computer

The Chinese government does and excellent job denying access to the unfiltered Internet to most of its citizens. But there are a small, but growing group of young people who have broken free of the restraints, and gained full access to forbidden knowledge. Those are the people the government spends so much time and energy trying to block.

One of the ways the government tries to do this is by compromising computers with viruses and malware that inject worms and backdoors into the system. With these types of exploits, the government can gain damning information about the dissonance, and lock down the systems so that they can no longer access the Internet outside of China’s control.

One of the ways to secure a computer without an IT department is to run a virtualized OS environment and let a package like VMware NSX do the heavy lifting of locking down the system against threats. According to Trend Micro, the benefits include:

  • •Anti-Malware with Web Reputation
  • •Intrusion Detection and Prevention
  • •Advanced Host Firewall
  • •Integrity Monitoring
  • •Log Inspection
  • •Application Scanning.

Use a Proxy

A proxy is a service that represents your Internet activity while masking your actual Internet activity. It also lets you do things by proxy that you are blocked from doing as yourself. It is the kind of thing you might use to hide illegal or socially unacceptable online behavior. In China, that includes accessing true information from the uncensored Web. There can be dire consequences for such radical behavior.

There are three categories of proxy servers as outlined by prohynova.com:

Transparent – target server knows your IP address and it knows that you’re using a proxy.

Anonymous – target server does not know your IP address, but it knows that you’re using a proxy.

Elite – target server does not know your IP address, nor does it have any clue that the request is coming from a proxy.

In addition to providing this general information, the site also provides up to the minute information about the largest list of proxy servers available, so they claim. More information about how to configure your browser to use proxies can be found on the site.

These methods work. People in China, and other countries that restrict access to information, get around these restrictions everyday by securing their systems and using elite proxies. You can, too. Just remember that no system is full-proof against governments that would rather throw you in jail than have you know true things about the world.

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