China blocks WhatsApp

China has blocked WhatsApp, security experts confirmed today to The New York Times. Over the past few months, WhatsApp has experienced brief disruptions to service, with users unable to send video chats or photos. Now, even text messages are completely blocked, according to Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Symbolic Software, a Paris-based research firm that also monitors digital censorship in China.

“Essentially, it seems that what we initially monitored as censorship of WhatsApp’s photo, video and voice note sharing capabilities in July has now evolved to what appears to be consistent text messaging blocking and throttling across China,” Kobeissi told The Verge.

Kobeissi found that China may have recently upgraded its firewall to detect and block the NoiseSocket protocol that WhatsApp uses to send texts, in addition to already blocking the HTTPS/TLS that WhatsApp uses to send photos and videos. He said, “I think it took time for the Chinese firewall to adapt to this new protocol so that it could also target text messages.” His company noticed the app disruptions beginning last Wednesday.

The move is a blow to Facebook, which has been banned in China since 2009 and owns WhatsApp. With the blocking of WhatsApp, Facebook’s only remaining stake in China is the Colorful Balloons app that it stealthily released last month.

The heightened censorship coincides with the upcoming 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. WhatsApp may have been a target because the app offers end-to-end encryption, which keeps users’ messages private. In contrast, other domestic Chinese apps like WeChat provide all users’ personal data to the Chinese government. WeChat, which already has 963 million active users, stands to benefit from one of its last foreign competitors being pushed out of the market. WhatsApp refused to comment.

Comments

Protectionism and oppression all in one neat package. While some in the West may admire Russia and China’s decisive moves not bogged down by infighting or bureaucracy, the freedom of the West is one of its key highlights, and we should never be quick to give up even a piece of it. A society of relative equality and freedoms is an outlier in human history, and there’s nothing inevitable about it. People have to defend it.

I’m all for freedom, but I have to say I really like what they did in China to remove internet anonymity. I wonder how much harrassment that’d cut down in the US when every rape threat some asshole made on twitter was tied to your actual name.

Call me cynical, but I would take our world of anonymous twitter threats over a 1984-style totalitarian surveillance state any day.

The social media is becoming a place where propaganda and fake news prosper. Any fake news gets more redirects from social media, because that is exactly what people want to read and believe. Allowing anonymous is only adding to trouble! Watsapp or any company that allows end to end encryption is a major trouble for any security agency. Gone are those days when the calls could be tapped or messages can be intercepted.

I totally support this move and Watsapp must be banned in every country for allowing end to end encryption.

The major question is why on earth does someone needs to fear about data stolen on a communication service like watsapp? I can understand its use on a business laptop which must also be granted only on permission, but having this on something like a phone or watsapp is simply outrageous.

Imagine, if you can, a state which supresses its citizens. Imagine, as hard as you can, a people who would like to fight it’s corrupt government. If it’s that hard for you to understand why civilians need accsess to safe communication channels, you are either very naive or seriously misinformed.

I don’t care about Govt suppressing citizens. If Govt wants to do that they are gonna do it anyway. All this FUD about rights, is giving more room for miscreants to fool the security agencies and have safe secure channels for destruction! I would take Govt Suppression any day over people killed because security agencies couldnt intercept the messages which could have helped them to solve a pattern. I work as part time apprentice at an agency and I know how dangerous it is to allow these kind of secure voice and messages stuff, which give no room of info.

You think a government that suppressed its citizens wouldn’t also kill them too? You aren’t guaranteed safety in either scenario so why give up your rights?

Your extreme opinion and use of the English language suggests you might be commenting here’s with more nefarious purposes.

I totally support this move and Watsapp must be banned in every country for allowing end to end encryption.

Are you insane?

Why ban a service that provides privacy to its users? Should iMessage be banned too? Telegram?

It might sound insane, but in the world we live this is need of hour. Yes telegram, or iMessage everything should be banned!

You should be allowed to encrypt your laptop only with a licence like that of a gun.

Shit, you’re wacked.

Because cryptography is not a secret technology nobody has. It’s well known, well proven and widespread. You can always implement your own crypto-based solution and communicate completely anonymously if you have something to hide, and you can be certain that that will definitely happen. Forcing people to give up crypto will only allow governments to brutally spy on normal people who do not have the means (knowledge, education, and resources) to protect their privacy, without helping in any meaningful way to thwart organized crime or terrorists.

Governments either ask for looser crypto in chat apps because of either ignorance on how this stuff actually works, or to quell dissent.

Here is the issue, in this day and age, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were just some goon or bot working for the specific governments to advocate nonsense.

You could also ask, I wonder how much it cut down on crime, corruption, death threats and so on – with a free and stable social democracy. There are simpler more longterm ways to get what you want rather than force.

I’ve yet to see the stick approach work longterm.

Sorry to tell you but "meat search" and angry internet mobs are still a very real thing in China.

I live in China, and let me tell you what happened after the removal of internet anonymity. None of those who harassed people or sent death threats got arrested. In fact, we heard tons of people specifically got arrested for criticizing police, even in their private social network. I remember one incident it’s like this guy got a traffic ticket so he cursed police on social network. But even he quickly deleted it after 1 hour, he still got caught by police and got detained for like 2 or 3 days in jail.

iMessage may be next on the "blocking block" if their goal is to kill end to end encryption/get user data.

iMessage may be next on the "blocking block"

Unlikely…

Apple made a sweetheart deal with Chinese government and agreed to store all Chinese citizens iCloud information in data centres located within the country.

Apple will also hold the encryptions keys to Chinese users iCloud accounts. Therefore it is probable the Chinese government have procedures in place to retrieve Chinese users basic iMessage metadata, or the even the actual iMessages

FORTUNE: A Local Chinese Government Will Oversee Apple’s New iCloud Data Center

Apple is building its first China-based data center per new cybersecurity law

Funny how they talk so much about privacy and security here in the west, even to go as far as refuse to provide information to the FBI (which I personally supported), but they’ll give everything to China. Why? $$$. So much upside potential with the growing middle class in China, which means Apple can earn billions more.

Apple have no choice they are simply obeying China’s laws. The US have different laws on privacy and data.

But yeah it goes against Apples ethos.

The cynical reading would be Apple never cared about privacy. It’s simply good PR in the West, so they sell that.

When it’s not profitable to take a stance on privacy in China, they abandoned it right away.

it is about freedom of speech? yes…..it is about giving the market to some very good"friends" without competition ??……OF COURSE.

The only people this will truly affect are foreign expats living in the country. Chinese netizens rarely use any other messaging software other than WeChat. Even mainland rivals like Renren and QQ have seen a massive collapse in their active userbase.

WeChat is by far the most multi-functional app that exists on iOS and Android. It has combined Paypal, Photoshop, Twitter, Facebook, Games, Youtube, Uber, Tinder and so many other apps into a single app, basically making most other apps on the app store obsolete.

As well as leaking all that information to the Chinese government. For free. How good is that?!

It’s great if you’re the Chinese government!

It would definitely suck if you were a free speech activist or a criminal.
That said, the grand majority in China do not seem to care. If you ever visit China, it’s actually one of the first things you will notice. Everyone seems completely oblivious to politics. They are brainwashed since childhood to stand behind the national government regardless of what it decides.

Changes to healthcare? Ok.
Changes to military Spending? No problem.
Changes to social assistance? So be it.

They go along with ANYTHING. There is no divide in China. Everyone seems to happily go along with what the government says, and if there is any doubt cast from outside media sources, they double down on expressing their love for their country and their national government.

They also know that questioning government would likely land one in a great deal of trouble, job loss, jail and what not, so they don’t even dare question it. One would think it makes Chinese people miserable, but quite the contrary… they seem almost relieved from the lack of care they give about it.

They go along with everything because the Chinese government took more people out of poverty in a shorter amount of time than any state in the history of mankind. It has raised beyond anyone’s wildest expectations the living standards of a billion + people and has supported industry and innovation to the point where they are on the cusp of a leading world power in tech, data and renewable energy.

The Chinese people will revolt if there is not enough food to eat, or if there’s no jobs, or nowhere to live. But the government subsidises food, and has invested in infrastructure, housing and job creation across the entire country.

Your comment stinks or arrogance and no little ignorance of not only China as a country, but the Chinese as people as well.

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