I've been trying – and trying – to reinstall software I need to freely access the Web in China. I increasingly suspect I'm doing battle with state-sponsored hackers ahead of the sensitive party congress.
Take me back to the days of carrier pigeons and cleft sticks.
I have just spent an entire day wrestling with my computer and my Internet connection, and I have a strong suspicion that I have been wrestling too, at a distance, with an agent of the Chinese government who has been doing his or her best to frustrate me.
In order to access the Web freely from China, you need what is called a Virtual Private Network, which jumps the Great Firewall erected by Chinese censors. Mine expired the other day, so I needed to re-install it.
That proved unusually difficult, even with online help from the company selling me the VPN, and it became clear that something was just not right.
My suspicions were heightened by the fact that I, like many other journalists, have recently received emails with Trojan horse malware (malicious code that looks like a legitimate file but in fact gives a hacker access to a computer) in their attachments. Cyber analysts who inspected them have warned that the attachments appear to come from state-sponsored hackers.
The last time this happened to me was during the Tibetan riots in 2008, when the authorities were very, very nervous about foreign journalists and began interfering directly with our communications. (That is over and above the normal surveillance to which our emails and phone calls are subject.)