Apple's switch to HTTPS thwarts Chinese censors

Using the secure protocol for its online App Store prevents censors from blocking access to VPN apps and other sensitive programs -- though maybe not for long.

Apple's use of HTTPS for its App Store isn't winning it any friends from the Chinese government.

The company seems to have recently turned on the more secure protocol for its App Store. Before that switch, censors in China could block Chinese users from searching for certain types of apps, such as VPN software, according to Greatfire.org, which monitors Chinese Internet censorship.

Searching for such apps would cause the actual connection to reset, meaning users in China couldn't download them even if they were available in the Chinese App Store.

But now with the more secure HTTPS in place, the Great Firewall of China can no longer interrupt the connection to specific apps. Testing conducted by Greatfire.org and by blog site The Next Web confirmed that apps blocked in China under the standard HTTP protocol are now available when HTTPS is used to access the App Store.

VPN apps are popular among Chinese users as a way to sneak past the government's firewall to surf the Internet without restrictions.

It's unclear exactly when Apple turned on HTTPS. A company document discovered by TNW suggests the switch might have been made sometime in October.

But the new and freer access in China may have a short life.

"It is highly likely that the government have noticed this loophole in its censorship net, and is now trying to close it," Greatfire.org said.

CNET contacted Apple for comment and will update the story if the company responds.

 

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