China Internet Outage
Chinese internet users had restricted access due to a glitch in the Great Firewall of China, and not due to hackers as first thought.Reuters

An eight hour internet outage in China was caused by a glitch in the Great Firewall of China and not hackers as was originally thought.

It is indicative of the size the huge growth of China's internet population that what has been branded as "one of the biggest outages ever seen" went almost unnoticed as China's internet infrastructure so often struggles to cope with the constantly increasing demand.

On Tuesday hundreds of millions of people in China trying to access popular websites - such as social network Sena Weibo - found they were redirected to a US website belonging to Dynamic Internet Technology (DIT) which offers services to Chinese citizens to access websites normally censored in their country.


The inital response was from within China was that the country's internet infrastructure was under attack from a group of hackers with reports tying to attack to the spiritual group Falun Gong.

The link was made becasue DIT is tied to the Falun Gong, a group banned in China which has been blamed for past hacking attacks.

China Internet Outage

During a daily news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said he had "noted" reports of Falun Gong involvement, but said he did not know who was responsible.

"I don't know who did this or where it came from, but what I want to point out is this reminds us once again that maintaining Internet security needs strengthened international cooperation. This again shows that China is a victim of hacking."

Human error

However it has now emerged that the outage was not caused by external attacks at all but more likely caused by the Chinese government itself.

Sources speaking to the Financial Times and Reuters said that rather than coming under attack an outside force, the problem arose because of a glitch in the Great Firewall of China.

Instead of blocking DIT's website, a government technician may have accidentally routed a good chunk of China's internet traffic there instead the sources said.

The Great Firewall of China is an apparatus used by the government to the censor or block vast swathes of the internet. Mainstream services such as Twitter and Facebook are banned in China.

Server problem

The problem occurred with China's top-level domain name root servers which administer the country's Domain Name Service (DNS) which translates a website's IP address (134.456.342.34) into a typical URL (

Users found on Tuesday that when they tried to access web addresses ending in anything but .cn they were redirected to the DIT website.

Using its web monitoring service, Compuware says the outage lasted for 8 hours and Michael Allen, Compuware's vice-president of APM, believes this could be one of the biggest outages ever:

"It's crazy that one DNS issue could have such an impact. When you consider the population affected, this was one of the biggest outages we've ever seen, with one seventh of global internet users impacted."

Allen adds that the impact of the outage isn't limited to internet users in China:

"The impact wasn't just on Chinese internet users; companies around the world lost out on $200 million in online sales during the eight hour period."