An American company tied to the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned in China, has been linked to a recent massive internet outage on the mainland, news reports said
For several hours from around 3:10 pm on Jan. 21, about two-thirds of all websites in China were rerouted to a US website run by the North Carolina-based Dynamic Internet Technology, a company that specializes in helping netizens get around online censorship in China, including a service that can retrieve microblog posts deleted by censors. Around 1 million users per second were said to have been redirected to the website during the outage.
According to a report from Reuters, the company is tied to Falun Gong practitioners, who have been persecuted in China and blamed for other cyber attacks in the past. The company is also sponsored by the Epoch Times, a newspaper affiliated with the spiritual group, and its list of clients include the activist group Human Rights in China and Voice of America, the official external broadcast institution of the US federal government.
The founder of Dynamic Internet Technology, Bill Xia, a Falun Gong member, denied being responsible for the outage, placing the blame on a mistake by China’s internet operators.
“Instead of targeting a small list of websites the [system] malfunctioned and targeted any domain,” he said, adding that such a large scale attack targeting only Chinese users could only be attributed to the Great Firewall, the colloquial name given to China’s official censorship and surveillance project.
The China Internet Network Information Center, the administrative agency responsible for internet affairs on the mainland, said the outage was due to a malfunction in the country’s top-level domain name root servers. China’s official Xinhua news agency, however, quoted experts as saying that the outage may have been the result of a cyber attack, or even if it was not, the outage could have been exploited by hackers.
This is not the first time such an incident has happened in China. On July 6 last year, a DNS malfunction prevented 2G and 3G mobile users from connecting to the internet. Less than two months later, on Aug. 25, all websites with domain names that end in .cn — the country code top-level domain for mainland China — were temporarily inaccessible.