recommended reading

Chinese Censors May Have Accidentally Hacked Themselves and Caused a Major Internet Outage

Tang Yan Song/

The cause of China’s massive internet outage this week, which affected an estimated 200 million users for as long as 24 hours, is something of a mystery. Chinese users trying to reach a range of websites ending in .com were re-routed instead to an IP address owned by Dynamic Internet Technology, an anti-censorship group in the US run by a member of the Falun Gong, a religious organization banned in China.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the evidence “shows that China is a victim of hacking,” and was a reminder that international internet security needs to be strengthened. China’s internet officials said the problem was misconfigured domain name servers outside of China, which translate domain names like “” into numeric IP addresses.

But Reuters cited unnamed sources familiar with China’s web management operations who said the malfunction that it may have been an “engineering mistake” that Chinese government employees made while making changes to the country’s “Great Firewall” internet censorship system.

The anti-censorship group Greatfire—which runs a website called FreeWeibo that reveals messages blocked on the popular Sina Weibo platform—has another theory. The Chinese government, they say, may have been trying to thwart Greatfire’s anti-censorship measures, and screwed up. The DNS misdirection was definitely coming from inside of China, not outside it, Greatfire said, because of tests they did of non-China websites from China. (Read their entire explanation here.)

No one can explain, though, why a huge chunk of China’s internet traffic might have been sent to that particular IP address, except, perhaps, for human error. The address ( “is a mirror site for, a news portal operated by Falun Gong groups,” Greatfire notes, operated by “mortal enemy number one” of the Chinese government.

Bill Xia, who created Dynamic Internet Technology in 2001, told the Wall Street Journal (paywall) his company had “nothing to do with the massive shift in traffic.” At the time, the site had no sensitive content on it, Greatfire notes, which would have been unusual if someone was intentionally trying to hack China’s censors.

(Image via Tang Yan Song/

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.