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China ramps up cybersecurity ahead of WWII anniversary parade

Network provider Astrill has warned users that its service may falter as the government increases online restrictions ahead of the 70th Victory over Japan Day celebration.

Twitter screenshot by Daniel Van Boom/CNET

China is preparing for a huge military parade on September 3 to mark the anniversary of the end of World War II, but the security measures it's enforcing aren't just being felt on the streets. On Wednesday VPN provider Astrill said the government will be "cracking down" on cybersecurity in the weeks leading up to the commemoration, rendering some of its service unavailable.

A VPN, or virtual private network, allows a user to circumvent geo-blocked Web content, often by altering the Internet Protocol (IP) address of their device. (Corporations also use them to provide access to networked company resources for workers outside the office.)

These networks are commonly used in countries such as Australia and the UK to access US-only streaming services such as Hulu or the US version of Netflix, which has a better selection of movies. People in China, however, use them for sites such as Facebook, Twitter and even Google, which are blocked by the country's Internet filtering system, known as the "Great Firewall of China" (GFW).

Astrill gave its users the following warning via a pop-up message in its smartphone app: "Due to upcoming Beijing's military parade next week, China is cracking down on IPSec VPNs using GFW auto-learning technique. VPN access from iOS devices may be limited at this time. Until end of parade, some of the servers will not be available in iOS application."

Apple's iOS is the underlying software that powers the company's mobile devices such as the iPhone.

Users of the service took screenshots of the message, above, and posted them on Twitter as they voiced their concerns.

The referenced parade is China's annual Victory in Japan celebration, which commemorates Japan's surrender at the end of World War II. This year is a particularly important occasion, being the 70th anniversary of the surrender signed on September 2, 1945.

Though Astrill's message implies the Chinese government's greater cybersecurity scrutiny may only be temporary, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has this year repeatedly cracked down on apps and services that counter its censorship measures.

In January the Communist party reportedly implemented significant upgrades to the Great Firewall, strengthening it to the point that various VPN providers, including Astrill, were temporarily unable to work around it.

(via South China Morning Post)