A powerful new Internet weapon unleashed by the Chinese government against websites working to bypass the country's online censorship was meant to deliver a not-so-subtle message to activists and foreign governments that the Communist nation will escalate efforts to control information on its networks.
The attacks last month, against the site of Chinese Internet freedom group Great Fire and U.S.-based site GitHub that hosts content banned in China, were performed by a new tool dubbed the "Great Cannon" that can steer the traffic of individual users to launch direct denial of service attacks against targeted websites, overwhelming the sites with data.
China has long imposed Internet censorship through a vast and expensive system dubbed the "Great Firewall” that prevents users from reaching much of the Web, but that system can be bypassed, permitting access to Western sites including the New York Times. Unlike the firewall, the new offensive weapon allows Chinese officials to launch attacks against sites they deem hostile, representing a "significant escalation in state-level information control," according to a report by cybersecurity research group Citizen Lab, which first documented the weapon's existence.
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