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Unusual DNS Error Leads to Internet Outage in China

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Around 3 pm local time across many localities in China, a number of domestic service providers were unable to establish contact with China’s Domain Name System servers, leaving millions of Chinese internet users offline for hours.

According to an IDG News report and other reports, Chinese security and Internet monitoring groups say the outage was due to an error with the nation’s generic top level domains (.COM, .INFO, .NET and .ORG) which redirected users to IP address 65.49.2.178.

This IP address is located in California and belongs to a company known as Sophidea Webhosting, but doesn’t appear to be currently in business. Sophidea has apparently hosted sites blocked in China such as news site The Epoch Times, and a site that provides software to bypass online censorship.

On the V2EX tech community board, some suggest (link in Chinese) that Chinese censors, in attempting to block the IP address, unintentionally redirected the nation’s top level domains to forward traffic to the IP. Some of the other possibilities suggested include a malfunction during an update to the country’s Great Firewall or a hacker attack.

The founder of Chinese DNS host DNSPod, Wu Hongsheng, told Sina Tech that the reasons behind the malfunction are currently unclear, and something that he characterized as “very unusual and serious.”

About the Author

David Hamilton is a Toronto-based technology journalist who has written for the National Post and other news outlets. He has covered the hosting industry internationally for the Web Host Industry Review with particular attention to innovative hosting solutions and the issues facing the industry. David is a graduate of Queen’s University and the Humber College School of Media Studies.

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