China’s known for its shady online practices, but the measures it takes to combat resistance to its regime can still come as a surprise. A recent extradition law put forward by the Hong Kong government has sparked a spate of youth protests in opposition, with tens of thousands gathering outside municipal buildings. Protesters have been using the well-known messaging service Telegram to organize, but not without China having the final say.
Telegram head Pavel Durov recently spoke out to announce a huge cyber-attack on his service and explained that most IPs involved in the DDoS—equating to 200-400 gb/s of spam—came from China. It’s hardly a coincidence that the service was shut down on a day of huge turnout for the protesters. The messaging service allows users to send encrypted messages and files to up to 200,000 people in one group, and broadcast live to an unlimited audience, but the attack brought down the service, affecting multiple countries.
Onlookers and protesters witnessed the use of rubber bullets and tear gas, with dozens of people injured in the violence. China is yet to speak out, but remains of the impression western involvement is to blame for the violence.
The takeaway message here is that China’s commitment to maintaining its oppressive regime isn’t going to lighten up. At least not for the next few decades. The government would rather shut down service for millions overseas and in Hong Kong, as well as injure its citizens than it would pay attention to the message of the protesters. It’s not a great place for privacy and staying connected, for anyone living there or just passing through. But internet users don’t have to totally limit their usage under these restrictions.
With a virtual private network (VPN), users can bypass government and ISP monitoring by first directing their traffic through private VPN servers. If the chosen server is in another country, users can also spoof websites into thinking they’re being accessed in that country. This means websites like Netflix, social media sites like Facebook and messaging services like WhatsApp and Telegram can be used anonymously and without the worry of attack.
But China’s digital arm is far-reaching, and the ‘Great Firewall of China’, as it’s known, is highly encrypted and tough to breach. Not many VPNs are able to do it, but a few can.
ExpressVPN tops the list as the most popular service, but it’s also probably the best for bypassing the Great Firewall. It comes with 256-bit AES encryption, the highest level of protection, and is based in the British Virgin Islands – a place without data-retention laws, allowing for a very strict no-logging policy. For anyone interested in the service, it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Another favorite for going around the Great Firewall is NordVPN. Like ExpressVPN, it also comes with 256-bit AES encryption, but Nord also employs double VPN encryption to ensure even greater protection for its users. Both VPNs mentioned offer thousands of servers worldwide, with most based in the entertainment and news hotspots.