What are China’s Golden Shield & Golden Canon?

China Ministry of Public Security Badge Logo

You have no doubt heard of the Great Firewall of China which keeps those inside China “protected” from the outside world.  In reality the Great Firewall is a way for the Chinese government to control its population by limiting access:

  1. by its citizens to dangerous ideas from outside China, and
  2. by limiting its citizens ability to tell the rest of the world what is going on inside China

But did you know that there is another system called Golden Shield which is China’s censorship tool for those inside the country which is even more insidious and prone to abuse.   It is run by the ominous sounding “Ministry of Public Security“.

This online surveillance system searches for keywords, phrases, connections and behavior of those the government considers undesirables.  It is a defensive/responsive tool.  In near real time it reports citizens who make comments that are critical of the Government to Chinese authorities.  It can also edit what has been written.

“… To bolster and broaden surveillance, the Ministry of Public Security turned to new technologies, launching the Golden Shield Project in 2000. The project aims to build a nationwide, intelligent digital surveillance network capable of identifying and locating individuals, as well as offering the state immediate access to personal records at the push of a button.

This dystopian project is bearing fruit. China’s pervasive Internet censorship and its use of countless security cameras in public spaces are well known. Recent reporting reveals authorities’ aspirations to enable facial recognition through upgraded cameras, to calculate citizens’ “social credit” scores based on economic and social status and to establish a national DNA database that logs genetic code irrespective of anyone’s connection to a crime.  SOURCE

The Golden Shield is the big brother of big brothers “correcting” things the Chinese government does not like.

The Golden Shield has now progressed and spawn a new tool named the ‘Golden Canon’ which is an offensive / proactive tool to take down websites it does not like by overloading them with useless requests.  In the IT world this type of interference is known as a Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack.

Chinas Great Firewall and Great Canon Decision TreeIn 2015 the University of Toronto and UC Berkley named the tool the Golden Canon because they found it rerouted the all of the traffic intended for China’s largest search engine (Baidu) to GitHub, because the Chinese did not like GitHub.

“…On March 16, 2015, GreatFire.org observed that Amazon CloudFront services they rented to make blocked websites accessible in China were targeted by a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. On March 26, two GitHub pages run by GreatFire.org also came under the same type of attack.

…The Great Cannon is not simply an extension of the Great Firewall, but a distinct attack tool that hijacks traffic to (or presumably from) individual IP addresses, and can arbitrarily replace unencrypted…”  SOURCE

Think about all of the billions of questions Google gets asked every day, being sent to even large websites like www.GM.com, www.WhiteHouse.gov or this site, www.PartisanIssues.com .  As big as they are, they are not designed to support that volume of traffic and so they become non-responsive.

So to summarize:

  1. the ‘Great Firewall’ keeps Chinese people from working with the outside world
  2. the ‘Golden Shield’ monitors communication inside China
  3. The ‘Golden Canon’ takes down those it cannot control with the first two

The future will bring ever more advances in China’s cyberwarefare arsenal, but what they have today is an impressive set of tools to oppress their own citizens and scare foreigners from being too critical.


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