Group fighting 'Net censorship in China presses on despite DDoS attack

GreatFire vows to continue its efforts to provide Chinese users with access to blocked websites

After facing a DDoS attack, an activist group isn't backing down in its attempts to end China's Internet censorship.

"I think that we are more confident than we were before that our successful execution of our strategy is going to lead us to achieve our mission," said the group via email on Tuesday.

GreatFire.org suffered a distributed denial of service attack last month that threatened to cripple its activities. The anonymous group, which is based out of China, believes the country's government was behind the attack.

Although China has always denied any involvement in state-sponsored hacking, the country has been suspected of carrying out cyberattacks against U.S. companies and other activist groups.

GreatFire tries to offer ways to bypass China's censorship, including by hosting mirror websites to blocked destinations such as Google, the BBC and The New York Times.

Links to these mirror websites are hosted on GitHub, a software development platform China hasn't censored. But last month, GitHub also suffered a DDoS attack that was the largest in its history and appeared to target GreatFire's page on the platform.

Both DDoS attacks have ended. During the attack against GreatFire, the group requested public support, and said that its bandwidth costs had reached up to US$30,000 a day, as a result.

"We learned a lot from the attacks and there was a great outpouring of support and folks offering their financial and technical assistance," GreatFire said.

GitHub continues to host links to the mirror websites the group has created. But on Tuesday, the actual mirror websites -- which are hosted through Amazon.com and others -- appeared to be down.

"We are experiencing minor hiccups but everything is moving forward on our end," the group added, without elaborating.

Amazon has not commented on the disruptions. But GreatFire signaled that it would still create mirror websites, and host them on public cloud platforms not blocked in China.

In February, the group launched a free Android app that can let users access blocked sites in China such as Facebook and Twitter. More than a million people were using the app last month, GreatFire said.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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