Feeds

Apple shifts iTunes to HTTPS, sidesteps China’s censors

Great Firewall foiled … for now

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Apple has adopted HTTPS for searches and downloads on the version of iTunes used in China. The move comes at a time when China's government prepares to step up regulation of online app stores and continues its crackdown on VPNs.

Greatfirewall.org, which tests blocked URLs and popular web platforms to provide info on censorship in China, blogged on Thursday that the switch to HTTPS has effectively enabled Apple to bypass the Great Firewall, for now.

“Before this adoption, searching for certain keywords such as ‘vpn’ would lead to a connection reset on iTunes and visiting the page for certain apps, such as VPN Express would also cause a reset, which means there is no way for users in China to search for or download certain apps even if they are available in China App Store,” it said.

“But because now HTTPS is implemented by Apple on almost all connection to iTunes server, Great Firewall of China has no way to selectively block connection to certain contents. A test to the same link mentioned above with HTTPS protocol yields no censorship.”

Other e-commerce platforms such as Taobao actively self-censor results for things like net circumvention tools, Greatfirewall.org added.

It’s still unclear exactly when Apple made the switch to HTTPS but last week the government signalled its intent for the first time to begin regulating the online application market.

This will involve forcing operators of mobile app stores to acquire a license before they can sell online and could potentially extend to real name registration rules for developers and some form of regulation for the apps themselves, according to the state-run Global Times.

It’s being done in the name of the “healthy development” of the mobile internet, and to be fair China does have a big problem with malware-ridden apps and dodgy third party stores, but raises the fear that it will also be used to extend the suppression of freedom of expression into yet another sphere.

The news also comes as the authorities appear to be taking a harder stance on VPNs – the main means by which netizens inside the Great Firewall access banned content. As early as a week ago reports came in that various VPN providers such as Astrill and StrongVPN had been deliberately disrupted for users inside China.

Apple couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.