United States penetrates Great Firewall of China

It seems that the United States has been trying to find ways to get current news through the censors of various countries including China, and according to Fox News they have been successful with a technology called, “Feed Over e-mail.” Information about the program was acquired via a Freedom of Information Act request.

The foe-project, hosted by Google and created in May 2009, is “a new anti-censorship tool that allows users in censored countries to receive news updates.”  The only requirement is that the end user be able to use POP3 and SMTP, along with an email account from a foreign provider. It works by compressing the payload to evade keyword filters employed by China and other regimes.

While this tool will obviously not help citizens when a country shuts down access to the internet, it can be used to provide information that would otherwise be unavailable. It allows the recipients to receive RSS feeds, proxy sites to bypass security measures, or TOR clients to surf online anonymously.

The question remains whether this should be considered cyber warfare or not. While many may not agree with China’s policies, does the country have the right to decide what their citizens can read? If the roles were reversed would people consider this an attack considering it is breaking through the security controls put in place by a country?

Time will tell whether China will simply block access to the remote mail servers, thus ending the usefulness of the tool.

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60 Comments

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Latest poll indicated %80 happy direction of the country and approval of their government. They are good at creating job.

Really bro? Where were you when they tried that at Tiananmen? They ended alot of those trying to "pull a Egypt" on them. Take a history class before opening your trap kthx.

Windows7even said,
sounds like the Chinese people need to pull a Egypt on their government.

+2 lol

Windows7even said,
sounds like the Chinese people need to pull a Egypt on their government.

There are better reasons.

Soulsiphon said,
Really bro? Where were you when they tried that at Tiananmen? They ended alot of those trying to "pull a Egypt" on them. Take a history class before opening your trap kthx.

Alot of those dissident fled oversea have asked the Chinese government to let them go home.

My partner, who lives in China, and I depend on access to Google and other sites for communication. I hope things like this don't jeopardize his access to gmail and other Google services. Yes, we do use a VPN for some communication but it is nice to not have to use it all of the time. Also, I currently enjoy being able to go to China without much hassle. I fear that won't be the case should things escalate.

China won't 'cut off' anything. The US is one of China's largest trading partners and enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the US in economic activity. Only clueless monkey's think that China 'owns' the US whole scale.

This ain't even news to begin with. Read about the great firewall of china: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Firewall_of_China

"compressing" the payload of an email is news worthy? I mean, really? If the firewall filters TCP packets based on their content, of course obfuscating the contents will work. Heck, writing information in esperanto would probably achieve the same results.

Fox news could have also used a vpn. problem solved.

Julius Caro said,
Fox news could have also used a vpn. problem solved.

Fox News isn't the one sending the information... The FOIA request confirmed that the US was using this to send information to China.

Fezmid said,

Fox News isn't the one sending the information... The FOIA request confirmed that the US was using this to send information to China.

China is not some information-deprived country surrounded by an impenetrable wall. Phones still work. VPN still works. SSL still works. Or what's what I assume based on what I see on wikipedia. That's why I dont get where the 'news' is.

Julius Caro said,

China is not some information-deprived country surrounded by an impenetrable wall. Phones still work. VPN still works. SSL still works. Or what's what I assume based on what I see on wikipedia. That's why I dont get where the 'news' is.


because the stereotype of china in most american people.

There's no way this happened without me, I'm in ALL the inner circles. Nothing happens in cyber-activism without me knowing.

Not Cyber Warfare by any stretch of the word...

Should it be done? I'm going to say sure it should. Without the free flow of information the people of China can't properly decide how they want to be governed. The right to fair and balanced information so people can make informed decisions is a basic human right. As such, the Chinese government, imho, doesn't have the legal authority to remove that right from people (it is on a plane outside of the power of governance, some would say it is on God's plane).

Jose_49 said,
Anonymous and Google in a same paragraph.... I'm not believing that.

Hell, even on the same page. Unless the word isn't or aren't is on it.

JamesWeb said,
A lot of 'penetrating' in Neowin's headlines today.

It's making me uncomfortable

Exactly the comment I was looking for after having just read about Nasdaq getting penetrated!!

JamesWeb said,
A lot of 'penetrating' in Neowin's headlines today.

It's making me uncomfortable

word... poor/strange choice of words neowin...

Forefall said,
Fox News? Oh god, that's the last way I want China to interpret the world.
Well, at least their news anchors are typically hot. LOL

Forefall said,
Fox News? Oh god, that's the last way I want China to interpret the world.

lol I didn't focus on that part. lol so true.

Am I the only person that thinks the US should leave China alone? did it ever occur to anyone that maybe the Chinese are happy with how things are? if the Chinese Gov decided that they didn't like the way my country is being run (Australia) and started interfering and trying to get my gov to run things their way, I wouldn't stand for it..so why is it ok for US to tell them what to do? Just because we *think* our way of government is better then theirs, doesn't give us the right to tell them what to do. Ok that is the end of my rant take with a grain of salt...

Xerxes said,
Am I the only person that thinks the US should leave China alone? did it ever occur to anyone that maybe the Chinese are happy with how things are? ... ...Just because we *think* our way of government is better then theirs, doesn't give us the right to tell them what to do....

there are plenty of self righteous people out there and if a government is made out of those people, then you get these self righteous governments. it's hard to fight it because they really BELIEVE they are right.

Xerxes said,
Am I the only person that thinks the US should leave China alone? did it ever occur to anyone that maybe the Chinese are happy with how things are? if the Chinese Gov decided that they didn't like the way my country is being run (Australia) and started interfering and trying to get my gov to run things their way, I wouldn't stand for it..so why is it ok for US to tell them what to do? Just because we *think* our way of government is better then theirs, doesn't give us the right to tell them what to do. Ok that is the end of my rant take with a grain of salt...

So I take it that you enjoy the idea of your government deciding what's best for you which is another way of saying that your government thinks of you as an incompetent person that can't think for himself and needs censorship. No matter what excuse they find to justify them denying your right to choose, it is NOT ok. I can clearly see how brainwashed you and other Australians that defend this moronic government have become and I just don't see how you are just as submissive as a wild animal that has given up in a fight, putting its tail between its legs and bowing down. The truth is, most Chinese people are NOT happy with the way their government runs the country. Many still live in utter poverty and the ones you say are "happy" may think so because they don't know any better.

The government is keeping things from them not because it's better for the people, but because the government is doing it out of self-interest. They do not want people to be knowledgeable and decide they want to protest. I see the same level of ignorance has trickled down to you and other people in your country.

ManOfMystery said,

The government is keeping things from them not because it's better for the people, but because the government is doing it out of self-interest. They do not want people to be knowledgeable and decide they want to protest. I see the same level of ignorance has trickled down to you and other people in your country.

so you think its a good thing that in the US a 7 year old can go on his computer and look at beastiality and grandparent porn? The internet should be censored a bit i believe. I cant post a picture of me naked on the side of my car but I can put it on a website that everyone can see. Blocking for political means is no good though..

Lachlan said,

so you think its a good thing that in the US a 7 year old can go on his computer and look at beastiality and grandparent porn? The internet should be censored a bit i believe. I cant post a picture of me naked on the side of my car but I can put it on a website that everyone can see. Blocking for political means is no good though..

If the kid's parents don't want him to see that and care enough, they'll make sure he doesn't. If not, no harm done. I can't think of much that's funnier than bestiality or grandparent porn...except for octagenarian bestiality. I'm certain a seven-year-old and all his friends would have a real blast seeing that. It's certainly no worse than the violent trash that's freely available on television, which should also be <i>parented</i> rather than censored.

I wouldn't call this a cyber attack but definitely not ok.... The chinese government blocks things that they think are not "appropriate" for their people. what if someone did this to us in the the US or anywhere in the world.

If you are having trouble imagining it, think of some things that are totally illegal in the US like some kinds of pornography. How do you think our government would respond if all the perverts out there found a way through the chinese to get their fix? how would you feel sitting at home with your spouse and children? it's not ok....

Why do I have a feeling that the mails started with: "This is Nigerian prince from Fox News, and we are here to help you..."

Anyway, there's already a lot of tools that can bypass the wall, and there's a Firefox plugin that automatically choose whether or not to use proxy on links for you, it helps accessing Neowin faster since otherwise a viewer from China would have to wait until that "Tweet" and "Like" buttons time out before they can read the page.

Northgrove said,
Blocking access to remote mail servers will surely impact their business industry though?
Not if they only block POP3. SMTP can still be used to send e-mail in and out of the "great firewall". Or they could prohibit traffic to IP blocks for public e-mail servers like GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo mail, etc.

LiquidSolstice said,

Was it really neccessary for you to do the whole arrogant "lmgtfy" thing after you explain to someone what it is you want them to Google?

Yeah that's somewhat anoying.

Cyber Warfare ? No.. Not even close..

But a game of chess between the Chinese Gov't, US Gov't, and several ideological companies.. ya.

Ryoken said,
Cyber Warfare ? No.. Not even close..

But a game of chess between the Chinese Gov't, US Gov't, and several ideological companies.. ya.

Yes, but the bigger questions is: what is with Neowin writers and "penetration" today?

Jebadiah said,
Yes, but the bigger questions is: what is with Neowin writers and "penetration" today?

*soft moan*

Ryoken said,
Cyber Warfare ? No.. Not even close..

But a game of chess between the Chinese Gov't, US Gov't, and several ideological companies.. ya.


great move for the chinese gov opponent. if the chiness gov block hotmail/gmail or other internet media, it might trigger an avalanch as we have seen lately. if they don't, then this will have a long term impact in the
censorship. it will be interesting to see the counter move.