Feeds

Apple shifts iTunes to HTTPS, sidesteps China’s censors

Great Firewall foiled … for now

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
George Clooney, WikiLeaks' lawyer wife hand out burner phones to wedding guests
Day 4: 'News'-papers STILL rammed with Clooney nuptials
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.