making sense out of apples vpn pullout
Last Updated : GMT 05:17:37
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Last Updated : GMT 05:17:37
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Making sense out of Apple's VPN pullout

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Emiratesvoice, emirates voice Making sense out of Apple's VPN pullout

Major telcos ordered to shut down all access by February 1. What's next?
Abu Dhabi - Emirates Voice

Sometime in 2015, I was in China to attend a tech event. As it was a whirl for me at that time, I completely forgot that certain global websites and services - Twitter, Facebook, anything Google including YouTube, even the New York Times, among several others - are banned in the world's second-largest economy. (And it actually cost me the chance to interview the CEO of Intel since I failed to open my Gmail account in time.)

But as we stepped into the Beijing International Convention Centre and given logins and passwords for the Wi-Fi network - lo and behold! - everything was back to normal in our cyberspace world ('our' meaning us guests to the country).

(By the way, there's one app that has been doing fine in China so far - WhatsApp. And it's owned by Facebook. Weird. However, word is that authorities have it in their cross-hairs.)

And it's really amazing that the moment you step out of the centre - just a few steps away from it, I recall - the Internet is back to 'China mode'.

Proves the great advancements the country has made when it comes to technology. And when it comes to great tech, even some titan called Apple had to bow down and satisfy the country's requirements.

Apple announced that it would be killing off its virtual private network (VPN) applications from its China app store, meaning users will no longer be able to scale and bypass the so-called 'Great Firewall', which was, in the first place, put up to limit access to certain overseas sites.

That's bad news for those in the country who want to break free from these chains. While it's a fact that VPNs aren't 100 per cent banned in China, those approved must utilise network infrastructure from the state.

In the UAE, while the use of VPNs is allowed, using it for fraudulent purposes could land you into trouble (read: jail time and up to a Dh2 million fine; yikes).

A VPN allows you to create a secure connection to another network. It can be used to access sites that are restricted in certain areas and even protect you from whatever's lurking on public Wi-Fi connections.

In short, it allows you to enjoy more of the Internet.

However, as with anything, it also has its dangers. While VPNs are basically secure, you can't really be sure. And, as written in a Tom's Guide article, "the lower the cost of the [VPN] app, the greater the chance they have security problems". Cue ?? when we talk about the free ones.

So why did Apple pull off this move?

"We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations," it said in a statement, talking about its recent crackdown on VPNs.

And their explanation was simple: it was aimed at 'cleaning and standardising access to the Internet'.

Even the three biggest state-owned telecom firms - China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom - weren't spared. The government has ordered them to shut down all access to VPN by February 1, 2018.

But to be clear, this move is aimed at regular consumers and individuals, meaning firms and corporates would be given exemptions. And that makes sense because, well, they need the 'connections' to go about their business on a daily basis. Killing that privilege off would be akin to giving a gut punch to business. And it's also unclear what the criteria would be to be granted permission to use VPNs, much more for individuals.

Naturally, owners of the VPN apps on Apple's App Store were frustrated, with at least one planning to appeal the ruling.

Every corner in this saga can be considered blameless - VPN providers for wanting to continue its services, the government for exercising their sovereign rights and Apple for protecting its business in a market it's so fascinated in. We can only wait and see what innovation in the country from some corners - despite surely to be labelled as 'illegal' - can do to scale the ever-rising Great Firewall of China.

Source: Khaleej Times

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