The Great Cannon of China can bring down websites across the globe

According to a report from Citizen Labs, China may have developed a tool to attack websites hosted at any part of the planet. The Internet in China is already heavily censored and all the filters are collectively dubbed as the Great Firewall of China. Now researchers have given the new DDoS tool, a name that goes “Great Cannon of China“. That is what the tool does – initiates a massive DDoS attack, targeting entire websites or single pages of a website.

Great Cannon of China

Great Cannon of China

Under specific circumstances, the tool can also be used to inject malware into websites, launch a man-in-middle-attacks and to intercept data packets for snooping and manipulating purposes. The report was prepared after a recent attack on some pages of US coding website named GitHub that allegedly had links to some of the websites banned in China. It is being believed that the Great Cannon was directed to the pages containing those “offensive” links in order to provide the web admins of GitHub with hints.

Citizen Lab is a part of University of Toronto and focusses on digital media and security as well as human rights (to information). It has always been critical of China’s Great Firewall that censors a huge part of the Internet, leaving a little and alternative websites for Chinese to browse. It says it has reasons to believe that there is a tool with China that can bring down websites across the world using the simple DDoS method.

To launch a massive DDoS attack, several computers have to be route traffic to target website. Hackers used compromised computers and other online products (Internet of Things etc) to launch such attacks. The Cyberspace Administration of China must have engaged lot many computers or an algorithm that normal hackers do not have yet. Though the Cyberspace Administration said it was China that faces a large number of DDoS attacks, Citizen Labs and similar researchers target China as it is the traffic from the latter seem to cause disruption in services whenever they (the Chinese authorities) want.

Several other researchers other than Citizen Labs are sure that it was the Great Cannon of China that had brought down parts of GitHub in late March as some IP addresses registered were found to be Chinese. The Chinese authorities had denied having any hand in the attack.

Only time will tell – upon a closer scrutiny into attacks happening in future – whether the Great Cannon exists or not, but it is a well-known secret that China has full control over what its countrymen can browse on the Internet. The Cannon is a signal that websites trying to circumvent the Chinese bans can easily be taken down.

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Arun Kumar is obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. He also offers online training for Business English. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN