Strange Internet Rumblings Coming From China

China’s Internet users on Thursday were restricted from accessing foreign websites for about an hour, setting off speculation that the nation was instituting — or at least testing — a new online censorship technique.

According to The Wall Street Journal:

At around 11 a.m. local time Thursday, China’s Internet suddenly began behaving very strangely …

Simultaneously, Internet users outside China, including in Hong Kong, reported difficulties accessing key Chinese sites, like search engine Baidu and the website of the People’s Bank of China.

One possible explanation was the strong earthquake and subsequent tremors that struck near Indonesia on Wednesday. As noted by The Guardian, a 2007 tremor damaged a major Internet cable and for months disrupted Chinese access to overseas sites.

But not everyone is settled on the earthquake explanation. The Wall Street Journal published a blog post Friday citing an engineer from CloudFlare, a company which provides Web security and performance services.

An engineer … who declined to be named said: “Non-HTTP (or DNS) traffic was able to pass, which suggests that someone made a mistake when filtering something — likely they filtered the entire Internet.”The recent saga of Bo Xilai, a sacked Communist Party chief in the 30 million-person city of Chongqing, has put China’s Internet censorship in the spotlight.

Scheming Schoolkids?

Two British teenagers, aged 16 and 17, have been arrested in connection with a recent alleged hacking incident in which a phone call to an antiterrorist hotline was intercepted and put on the Internet.

From The Guardian:

A hacking group named TeamPoison claimed responsibility for the cyberattack and said it was made in protest at extradition laws. The group uploaded a recording to YouTube apparently consisting of a phone conversation between Met police antiterrorist hotline staff, as well as two recordings of prank calls it made to the hotline.

The Met police — one of London’s law enforcement units — said that the hackers had not accessed the “internal systems” and that the public could still trust the antiterror hotline’s security.

Earlier this week, Anonymous hacked British government sites.

YouTube as an Intelligence Source

Bloomberg ran an article Friday about intelligence information that can be gleaned from YouTube, particularly videos from Syria.

From the article:

A tall, muscular figure silhouetted against a palm-studded city block shoulders a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, aims and fires at a Syrian armored vehicle in the distance.

The video of the attack, one of thousands posted on YouTube by the Syrian opposition, reveals the rebels’ growing capabilities and the wear-and-tear on the Assad regime’s forces, said Jeffrey White, a retired U.S. defense intelligence analyst. The Russian-made BMP infantry fighting vehicle was buttoned up tight, a sign the soldiers inside were wary, he said.

“It wasn’t a wild shot,” said White, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who relies on such video clips and the Facebook pages of rebel units in evaluating strengths and weaknesses of the Free Syrian Army and President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. “I wouldn’t say it’s a demonstration of mastery of the military art, but it looks like it wasn’t casual or uninformed.”

Canadian Mint Contest Closed

The Royal Canadian Mint has stopped accepting entries in its contest to develop apps for a national digital currency.

The contest’s website said: “Due to a very high level of interest, we are no longer accepting registrations for the MintChip Challenge. If you registered already, we will contact you shortly.”

The MintChip contest rules — which are extensive — stipulate three categories: best P2P app, best B2C app and best micropayment app. In addition, there is a Popular Choice award, as well as first-, second- and third-place prizes for the Best Overall Application. Winners will be paid with gold.

Tech Trek is a blog that looks at tech news from around the world. David Vranicar is a freelance journalist currently living in the Netherlands. His ECT News Network archive, with links to articles and podcasts, is available here.

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