China to ban VPN for businesses

The world’s second largest economy is seen here struggling to balance authoritarianism with its business leadership aspirations.

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China is planning to block businesses relying on Internet VPN or SD-WAN access within China next week. According to a notice from China Telecom obtained by SD-WAN Experts, the Chinese Government will require commercial Chinese ISPs to block TCP ports 80, 8080, and 443 by January 11, 2018. Port 80 is of course the TCP port commonly used for carrying HTTP traffic; 8080 and 443 are used for carrying HTTPS traffic. Commercial ISP customers interested in maintaining access to those ports must register or apply to re-open the port through their local ISP.

 

Millions of Internet users relied on virtual private networks (VPNs) to circumvent the Chinese censorship system, dubbed the Great Firewall of China. In the past, VPNs have worked intermittently but were invariably blocked, forcing users to jump to another VPN. The new regulations will block VPN access to unregistered services.

Crackdowns on accessing the Internet beyond the Great Firewall — the world’s most sophisticated state-censorship operation, employs at least 2 million online censors.  But this news highlights how the world’s second largest economy is struggling to balance authoritarianism with its business leadership aspirations. In addition, a strict new cybersecurity law came into effect in June. In July China Telecom, the nation’s biggest Internet service provider, sent a letter to corporate clients that said in future, VPNs would only be allowed to connect to a company’s headquarters abroad.

 

As noted in Bloomberg:

“This seems to impact individuals” most immediately, said Jake Parker, Beijing-based vice president of the US-China Business Council. “VPNs are incredibly important for companies trying to access global services outside of China,” he said. “In the past, any effort to cut off internal corporate VPNs has been enough to make a company think about closing or reducing operations in China. It’s that big a deal,” he added.