A high-level malfunction in China’s internet architecture put as many as two-thirds of the country’s domain websites out of action for several hours this week, hackers and analysts said, though a report on government media blamed the outages on a large-scale cyber attack.
Many users were unaware that anything was amiss on Tuesday, when they began to get error messages trying to log on to commonly used websites, as China’s internet infrastructure often struggles to keep up with burgeoning growth and outages are a problem.
But China’s Xinhua state news agency, widely seen as a mouthpiece for the government, cited analysts warning that the outages could have been the result of a large scale cyber attack. Some traffic, according to the story, had been diverted to the website of a US company, Dynamic Internet Technology, which sells web services to Chinese users enabling them to avoid censorship. It was unclear whether the outage and the diversion of traffic were caused by hackers, or were a malfunction exploited by hackers, according to analysts quoted by Xinhua.
On Wednesday, Chinese hacker communities, unconvinced by the foreign subversion explanation, pointed to a malfunction in China’s “Great firewall” – the massive internet censorship apparatus used to block access to many foreign websites. Instead of blocking DIT’s website, they said, a government technician may have accidentally routed a good chunk of China’s internet traffic there instead. DIT, the US company whose website was flooded with traffic on Tuesday, said it had nothing to do with the outages.
The disruption started at about 3pm on Tuesday and lasted for several hours, according to Xinhua. A number of internet sites began returning error messages – possibly up to two-thirds of the .com domain websites in China, according to Chinese reports – while some directed users to DIT’s website. “The outage lasted for eight hours primarily affecting China,” said Michael Allen, vice-president of APM, Compuware, an IT company. “When you consider the population affected, this was one of the biggest outages we’ve ever seen, with one-seventh of global internet users impacted.”
The China Internet Network Information Center, created by the ministry of information and responsible for internet affairs, said in a microblog post that the malfunction seems to have occurred in root servers for China’s top-level domain names.
So massive was the outage, according to one report from an anonymous user on Chinese online security platform Freebuf.com, that the only technology capable of knocking out so many websites at one time in China was the “Great firewall” itself. The user then posted a series of charts showing that the outages could only have originated from within China’s state internet security architecture.
“Such a wide ranging outage, operated on all provinces’ major networks, with ability to deal with huge amount of data?.?.?.?well, it is [the Great Firewall],” said the user, referring to it in code so as to avoid internet keyword censors.
“The most possible reason is that, a technician from [the Great Firewall] wanted to block this IP by contaminating its DNS, however the technician didn’t write down its target thus it has contaminated the whole thing.” Internet service was back to normal on Wednesday.
Additional reporting by Zhao Tianqi
但是，官方的新华社（被广泛视为政府的喉舌）援引分析人士的警告称，此次大面积瘫痪可能是一场大规模网络攻击的结果。根据这篇报道，一些流量被转向美国公司Dynamic Internet Technology（以下简称DIT）的网站。该公司向中国用户出售使他们能够规避审查的网络服务。新华社援引分析人士的话称，尚不清楚此次瘫痪和流量转向是由黑客引起的，还是黑客利用了某个故障所致。
据新华社报道，中断始于周二下午3点左右，持续了数小时。很多网站（据中国媒体报道，可能占中国的.com域名网站的至多三分之二）开始返回报错信息，另一些网站则将用户转向DIT的网站。“此次瘫痪持续了八小时，主要影响到中国。”信息技术公司Compuware APM的副总裁迈克尔?艾伦(Michael Allen)表示，“从受影响的人口看，这是我们见过的最大规模互联网瘫痪之一，全球七分之一的互联网用户受到影响。”