On Tuesday afternoon, millions of people in China were unable to browse their favourite websites due to a massive internet blackout, according to reports from various news agencies.
The internet outage happened at around 3:00pm, when several local service providers failed to connect with the country’s Domain Name System (DNS) servers.
As a result, the majority of Chinese people were unable to access portals ending with .org, .net, .info and .com. Even the services offered by Chinese internet giants such as Tencent and Baidu were inaccessible.
The lucky few who were able to go online were those who utilised privately-owned virtual private networks (VPNs), or servers hosted in other countries that are sometimes used by tech-savvy Chinese to access domestically blocked websites such as Twitter and Facebook.
“Two-thirds of the country’s domestic servers were affected and users were unable to access anything,” said Wu Hongsheng, founder of service provider DNSpod. He noted that all service providers are currently assisting the authorities in investigating the incident as the reason behind it remains unclear.
Some Chinese netizens believe that the enhancement of China’s Great Firewall could be the root cause of the internet outage, while analysts suspect a malicious attack by hackers.
“Such large scale malfunctioning of top-level root domains is very likely the result of attacks,” said an internet security expert who wished to remain anonymous.
“Upgrading the national firewall is usually a gradual process which requires careful treatment and is unlikely to cause a server paralysis,” he explained.