Surviving China

Communist China

Communist China

I’m leaving for the Lake District on Thursday on the school Winter Walking trip, after which I’ll be travelling to China with my family. Being the cynic that I am, I suspect China will be more Ray Mears-esque in terms of tough survival than the potentially freezing/hail-ey/flooded conditions of the Lake District in Winter, and being the masochist that I am, I’ll love both trips. Being the pragmatist that I’d like to think I am, I’ve already started thinking about how to survive the desperately corrupt, totalitarian and uncompromising system of law, justice, police and politics.

Internet: Tor

The ‘Probrem’
Accessing the internet is crucial to me, even at home. My main form of communication with the outside world when I’m not out is through the internet. I rarely make phone calls when email and IM suffice and writing letters is almost out of the question. In China, it will be my only point of communication with the outside world, since I’ll be separated from everyone I know by thousands of miles. Unfortunately China’s internet is segregated from the outside world by the Great Firewall of China which means any data obtained from the censored network of ‘information’ available from inside China is very probably erroneous, especially if it has anything vaguely to do with politics. Most blogs (wordpress for example) are also banned.

The Onion Router

TOR: The Onion Router

The Solution
TOR (The Onion Router) is basically an open source software which links thousands of computers around the world in a huge relay network for the purpose of providing what is essentially a very secure proxy. This means anonymity for anyone who uses it, as well as a method for getting round internet censorship in certain authoritarian schools and institutions and, more importantly, China. I shall be bringing with me a portable version to grant me the ability to keep track of and avoid the growing list of poisonous Chinese foodstuffs.

I’d also encourage anyone who reads this to consider running a Tor router and generally helping the cause. There’s a Facebook page and group and a volunteer section in the site. You’ll probably route some of my traffic if you set it up quickly enough!

Internet: Remote Desktop

The ‘Probrem’
There is still a problem. Although I’ll be able now to surf without hindrance (albeit slowly – Tor is rather slow), I might need to access some files on my home computer which are stored on encrypted hard drives. I’d be worried about taking a HDD on a plane trip which, after being bombarded with X-rays then being shaken about a bit, might be rather shaken up. I obviously can’t just use remote desktop normally – China will get the password to my home computer and will probably keylog everything that goes through which would grant Hu Jintao the key to all my data: precisely the opposite of what I want. Remote desktop through Tor is also painfully slow.

Remote Desktop

Remote Desktop

The Solution
Remote desktop’s security needs to be pimped up. For some, a windows product juxtaposed with the word ‘security’ is almost oxymoronic, but I’m not *that* cynical. Some time ago I found a fantastic guide to Remote Desktop which focuses on security. Here are a few good ideas which I took:

1. Lockout Policy

Run >> secpol.msc
Security Settings\Account Policies\Account Lockout Policy
It’s always a good idea to set this if you’re going to allow remote desktop connections to your machine in case Mr Brute Force comes along.

Security Policy

Security Policy

2. Use SSL

Run >> gpedit.msc
Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Terminal Services\Encryption
This speaks for itself really – encryption is a necessity if anyone’s going to get round the Great Firewall of China

Group Policy Window

Group Policy Window

3. Change Port

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server\WinStations\RDP-Tcp\PortNumber
If a hacker finds your IP he might immediately try the default Remote Desktop port. Change it to something random like 156 to baffle him. If you’re concerned about choosing a port number, here‘s a list of port numbers. Happy reading :)

Food

The ‘Probrem’
Need I say more?

Everyone knows about Chinas tainted milk scandal

Everyone knows about China's tainted milk scandal

The Solution
We’re bringing rations from good old Tesco – I can look forward to a holiday of canned food. In addition, there are some food items which are probably not poisonous. Food which has to be imported and can’t be made/grown in China for example. I can’t think of anything immediately… Vegetables should also be fairly safe provided they are properly washed to cleanse them of excessive pesticides and have thick skins. Hopefully they aren’t full of Arsenic like the rice.

Though I hate to say it, China is still fundamentally a third world country, despite her phenomenal economic growth. There are real problems which she faces. I suspect, owing to the way China seems very good at under-stating problems (e.g. SARS some years back) that the economic situation over there is far worse than it seems and I’m genuinely concerned that possible ensuing riots might cause the government to change fairly more violently than I hope. Meanwhile however, I’m really looking forward to being plunged into such exotic territory and actually almost excited about the potential danger – what doesn’t kill me will make me stronger, right?

I hope these ideas help someone – this research should in theory help me. I’m still not sure whether I’m over-preparing and/or being melodramatic about China’s perilous nature. If you think there’s something important I’m forgetting, please point it out to me! I’m making it a new policy to attempt to abide by some of Ben’s rules (an excellent compilation of blogging policy I think), particularly rule three about actively welcoming critical comments. In this case in particular, my holiday (or, if you’re as worried as me, my life) might depend on it, so if you have any advice for me or anyone travelling Communist-Eastwards this Christmas, I’d be very keen to hear from you. TIA

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3 Responses to Surviving China

  1. Ketan says:

    what could china possibl want with your desktop info?
    your latest B&W article? rules to hack the SPS system? jks

  2. William says:

    Someone is seriously overstating the entire harshness of China. Food in China was fine when I visited and obviously I avoided the weird stuff but there’s a whole tonne of western brands providing food that you’d find on our shelves back at home. I loved my cheap Oreo cookies I could get in China and I also ate in the local Chinese restaurants everyday. Finally internet wise, Tor will possibly be worth bringing along, though I doubt you’ll need it as when I was in China I used the internet perfectly satisfactory without any trouble and maybe that’s because I wasn’t searching for any defamatory texts about the government but then again do you need to? Good luck with it and my piece of advice is to avoid the public toilets under all circumstances!

  3. Bryant Tan says:

    Thanks Will, I’ll definitely be avoiding public toilets!

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