China’s is ever determined to exert more control over the internet. The Chinese government has released earlier this year a robust internet censorship system, chiefly known as “The Great Firewall of China“, which basically prevents users from accessing certain web content, such as: Facebook, Youtube and Google, even when using VPN services as it uses a sophisticated filtering technology called “Data Packet Inspection“. Unlike regular geo-blocking filtering systems used by governments in many parts of the world, by using DPI The Great Firewall can recognize any data passing through it, including: VPN-encrypted data traffic, and blocks this data accordingly. However, internet users have found a way to go around the Great Firewall of China using with the help of the VPN service providers (you can find more about it here). Now China has developed an even more viscous cyber weapon that has taken the US by a storm of cyber attacks, dubbed as The Great Cannon.
How much do we know about the Great Cannon?
Dubbed the “Great Cannon” by researchers at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, Canada, this new “offensive system” is considered to be the most powerful cyber weapon, so far. Researchers discovered that this ferocious software can gather internet traffic and redirect it towards websites, forcing a large string of “distributed denial of service” (DDoS) attacks.This type of attacks send a huge influx of traffic towards a certain site, overloading it with requests and eventually forcing it to go offline.
The Great Cannon was first used last March where it flooded the US-based coding website, GitHub by traffic causing it to become unresponsive for days. However, it appears that the Great Cannon has two main targets in range, the New York Times’ Chinese mirror and Greatfire.org, a non-profit organisation aimed at helping Chinese internet users to find ways to easily bypass the Great Firewall’s filtering claws without being detected by it.
“The operational deployment of the Great Cannon represents a significant escalation in state-level information control: the normalization of widespread use of an attack tool to enforce censorship by weaponizing users,” says the Citizen Lab says.
The Great Cannon has been compared to the NSA’s QUANTUM program. The report further continues to highlight the dangers of this weapons:
“affording China the opportunity to deliver exploits targeting any foreign computer that communicates with any China-based website not fully utilizing HTTPS.”
What does the Great Cannon’s deployment mean and how to stay protected online?
The deployment of the Great Cannon marks a notable shift in cyber tactics and strategy. China has never been as too obvious with its cyber attacks as it has been with the Great Cannon and the Great Firewall. This probably indicates that China is intentionally sending out warning messages to websites that are trying or encouraging accessing its blocked web content over the internet. It may also indicate that China is trying to show off its cyber arsenal to its prominent rival, the United States. There is a major political shift that is taking place in the world today and is controlled by two vital weapons, the internet and economy, perhaps we are yet to see more cyber wars between countries in the future.
Meanwhile, the best way to stay protected from the Great Cannon’s round shot is to ensure using secure browsing methods, like: HTTPS and VPNs. Yes, for the time being it is safest to remain completely anonymised and secured through VPN services at least or proxies since such services hide your original IP address and replace it with a fake one to make it impossible for anyone to trace your location or track down your online activity. Click here for a complete review on the best cheapest VPNs.