China blocks Signal - here's what you need to know

Signal
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The popular encrypted messaging app Signal (opens in new tab) is the latest online service to be blocked in China with users across the country reporting that they are no longer able to access it.

The news comes a month after censors in Iran began blocking the app's traffic (opens in new tab) as countries around the world look to crack down on their citizens using encrypted messaging apps (opens in new tab)to privately communicate.

As with other online services such as Facebook, Google and Twitter which have been blocked for years in China, Signal users can circumvent the country's Great Firewall (opens in new tab) by using a VPN (opens in new tab). This is because VPNs allow you to change your IP address to one in another country where the app or service you're trying to use isn't blocked.

Signal uses end-to-end encryption (opens in new tab) for both its messaging and calling services and this prevents third parties from viewing users' chats or listening in on their phone calls.

Blocked in China

Signal users in China recently began reporting that they were unable to get the app to connect without using a VPN. Those who tried to use it without one said that their messages failed to send and that their calls did not go through.

During a daily news briefing though, spokesperson for China's ministry of foreign affairs Zhao Lijian explained that he was unaware of the situation and that the country's internet is open, saying: 

“What I can tell you is that as a principle, China’s internet is open, and the Chinese government manages internet-related affairs according to law and regulations.” 

Signal recently became popular among Chinese users concerned about their privacy online though the app is nowhere close to overtaking China's WeChat (opens in new tab) which has over a billion users and is not only used to communicate but also to make online payments (opens in new tab). However, politically sensitive messages and content on WeChat is often censored and Chinese authorities have detained citizens for messages sent via the service.

We'll likely find out more on the situation as it develops but until then, users in China can grab one of the best China VPNs (opens in new tab) to continue using Signal in the country.

  • We've also highlighted the best VPN (opens in new tab) services

Via The Guardian (opens in new tab)

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.