Skip to main content

Huge Internet glitch in China caused by human error

An error that resulted in internet traffic in China being diverted to a site selling methods of bypassing the country's strict censorship laws was not a result of hacking, as had previously been reported.

Hundreds of millions of Chinese web users were automatically redirected away from many of the most popular websites in China on Tuesday.

Instead they found themselves on the web page of Dynamic Internet Technology (DIT), a firm dedicated to providing solutions to get round the 'Great Firewall'.

The Chinese National Computer Network Emergency Response Centre had originally concluded that the problem was caused by a cyber attack.

However, sources close to the government's web management operations have since claimed that the malfunction was a result of an engineering mistake.

Related: China's censors to crack down on mobile apps

The glitch, which lasted for over an hour, affected over two thirds of Internet traffic in the country.

It is understood that the problem came from within the servers that control the Domain Name Service (DNS) in China.

"Our investigation shows very clearly that DNS exclusion happened at servers inside of China," Xiao Qiang, professor at Berkeley School of Information in the US, told Reuters news agency.

What this meant is that web users typing in an address without the ".cn" suffix were sent to the DIT site.

"It all points to the Great Firewall, because that's where it can simultaneously influence DNS resolutions of all the different networks (in China)," Qiang added.

"But how that happened or why that happened we're not sure. It's definitely not the Great Firewall's normal behaviour."