Skip to main content

China suffers massive Internet outage, analysts suspect hackers

By Paul Armstrong, CNN
updated 3:58 AM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
Chinese Internet users found access to many websites from inside the country blocked for a time.
Chinese Internet users found access to many websites from inside the country blocked for a time.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Access to domain names such as .com blocked Tuesday afternoon in China
  • State media quoted security experts saying this could have been cyber attack
  • Internet users rerouted to U.S.-owned website with links to banned group in China
  • Dynamic Internet Technology said problem likely caused by China's own censors

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Millions of Chinese netizens were prevented from accessing huge swathes of the Internet Tuesday, with many rerouted to a website owned by a U.S. company with ties to a group outlawed in China.

The China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), a state-run department, blamed a "malfunction in root servers" that blocked access to top-level domain names in China such as .com and .net, according to a post on its Sina Weibo account, the Twitter-like micro-blogging service.

Security analysts quoted by the official Xinhua news agency said this could have been the result of a cyber attack by hackers -- though this has not been proved.

Dynamic Internet Technology (DIT) confirmed it owns the web address users were redirected to but denied any involvement. It said the company's IP address is already blocked in China so users would have been met by a blank web page.

China tweaks Internet censorship
2012: Fighting the great firewall

DIT President Bill Xia told CNN Wednesday that the Internet outage was likely caused by China's own web censorship system, more widely known by its infamous "Great Firewall" moniker, which controls access to content on the Internet inside China deemed unsuitable.

China 'employs 2 million to police internet'

"Their DNS hijacking system is used to redirect visits to certain websites to the wrong IP address," he said. "But this time it was likely a temporary misconfiguration that affected all domain names."

According to its website, the U.S.-based company provides a range of services including anti-censorship solutions and has worked "to provide web access to forbidden sites for Internet users in China," with the Epoch Times, a newspaper run by the Falun Gong, listed among its clients.

The Falun Gong is a spiritual movement that has been banned in China since 1999, accused of "spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting and creating disturbances and jeopardizing social stability."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:57 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Chinese students show a handmade red ribbon one day ahead of the the World AIDS Day, at a school in Hanshan, east China's Anhui province on November 30, 2009.
Over 200 Chinese villagers in Sichuan province have signed a petition to banish a HIV-positive eight-year-old boy, state media reported.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane, forcing the Nanjing-bound plane to turn back to Bangkok.
updated 12:03 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
updated 7:21 PM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
Like Beijing today, Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons.
updated 12:42 AM EST, Sat December 6, 2014
At the height of his power, Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
updated 3:26 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
updated 1:48 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
updated 3:55 AM EST, Wed December 3, 2014
Despite an anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past 12 months.
updated 7:01 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
updated 7:51 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
A 24-hour Taipei bookstore is a hangout for hipsters as well as bookworms.
updated 8:53 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
updated 5:57 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
North Korean refugees face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
ADVERTISEMENT