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Thousands of Sites Suffer Collateral Damage as China Blocks EdgeCast

The Chinese authorities appear to have blocked EdgeCast, one of the largest Content Delivery Networks in the world, taking out potentially thousands of sites including those owned by Sony, The Atlantic and Firefox.

Anti-censorship organization Greatfire.org claimed that Beijing had ordered a DNS poisoning attack on edgecastcdn.net in a bid to block its “collateral freedom mirror sites” – which are hosted on EdgeCast.

These aim to provide users inside the Great Firewall with access to officially unapproved web content.

Greatfire’s Percy Alpha explained in a blog post:

“GFW cannot distinguish traffic to our mirror sites and other traffic to the cloud provider which means that they cannot block access to our mirror sites without blocking access to the all sites hosted by the CDN. We are forcing the authorities to make a decision between allowing uncensored access to the global internet or blocking global CDNs all together, which will come at a significant economic cost.”

The irony is that Greatfire has already made available mirrored sites such as blocked Chinese news site Boxun available on CDNs other than Verizon-owned EdgeCast.

For its part, EdgeCast updated its customers with a blog post acknowledging the Great Firewall’s latest crackdown, which began last week, but claiming it has not been notified by the authorities as to the cause.

It added:

“At Verizon EdgeCast we have put policies in place to help our customers mitigate the effects of this most recent filtering but expect this to be an ongoing issue for our customers seeking to reach Chinese users (users in China). For any customers who are seeing their delivery impacted, please log in to your EdgeCast portal. Here you will find instructions on your portal home page on how to best mitigate filtering or blocking.”

It remains to be seen whether the expected outcry from the thousands of businesses affected by this latest bold move by Beijing’s censorship regime forces the authorities to reverse their decision.

In January 2013, China launched a Man in the Middle attack against developer site Github because it was hosting content related to a White House petition demanding the architects of the Great Firewall be denied entry to the US.

However, the outcry from the developer community appeared to have been enough to persuade the authorities to unblock the site days later.

The same has not been true of other sites hit by MITM of late, including Google, Yahoo, iCloud and others.

In another irony noted by Greatfire, China has been trying to position itself at the center of the global internet governance debate, with an inaugural World Internet Conference in Wuzhen this week.

However, despite state-sponsored media outlets hailing the meeting, which is expecting 1,000 participants, there is little interest outside of China, with only two non-Chinese executives apparently scheduled to speak.

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