China cracks down on VPN use following coronavirus

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The Chinese government has once again initiated a crackdown on VPN services as it looks to stop citizens and expats alike sharing information about coronavirus.

By preventing users from accessing VPNs within its borders, China can more easily control the flow of information into and out of the country - just like how China blocks WhatsApp. While this allows the country to stop misinformation regarding the coronavirus from spreading online, it also makes it more difficult for Chinese citizens and residents to find out what is really going on around the world.

VPNs give users the ability to bypass China's Great Firewall and the country's government allows these services to operate to some degree.

Although the Chinese government has banned private, unregistered VPN services, it does allow government-registered ones to operate in the country. Registered VPNs are mainly used by foreign and domestic businesses that need to access the global internet as part of their daily operations. For example, many Chinese businesses have a strong presence on Twitter, despite the service being banned in the country, and they all use registered VPNs to access it.

China's VPN crackdown

For the most part, China has enforced its VPN ban more forcefully against VPN providers than it has against individuals using these services within its borders (hence the need for our article on the best working VPN for China). However, the Chinese government has established a clear pattern of cracking down on VPNs during times of potential political tensions. 

For instance, during last year's National People's Congress meeting in March, which is the largest annual political gathering in China, many VPN users complained that they were unable to bypass the country's firewall. The same thing occurred last September when users voiced concerns about VPN servers being down ahead of the 70th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

The website Greatfire tracks the performance of VPNs in China and according to its creator Charlie Smith, VPN users across the country have found it increasingly difficult to use these services since the coronavirus outbreak began. Smith provided further insight on the current situation in China in a statement to Fortune, saying:

“The current situation for VPNs is very similar to what happens during major government meetings in China. The authorities throttle VPN usage, rendering use of the foreign Internet near impossible."

Greatfire tracks VPN speeds over a 60-day period and since the outbreak began, 10 of the top 15 VPNs working in China have shown a significant decline in performance.

  • Also check out our complete list of the best VPN services

Via Fortune

Anthony Spadafora

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.