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China Blocking UF’s VPN

GRAPHIC: Computer keyboard with Chinese flag symbols on it.

In 2016, China announced it would block unregistered VPN services. In 2018, UFIT began receiving reports from faculty working in China that the UF VPN was blocked. 

Using the UF VPN service in tandem with an encrypted laptop provides secure, remote access to the UF Network.  However, registering UF’s VPN to allow its use in China would require the university to provide the Chinese government access to decrypted data and other sensitive information. 

There is nothing UFIT can do to make the UF VPN service work in China without potentially violating Chinese law and putting faculty, students, and staff in legal jeopardy.  UFIT will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as needed.

It is possible that reputable Cloud services like O365 (OneDrive) and UF Dropbox may periodically be available while you are in China.  However, network and Cloud access in China is a fluid situation — what works today may not work tomorrow. UFIT recommends:

  • Travelling with an encrypted laptop. Ideally, the laptop should be specially prepared by IT staff for your trip. This includes erasing all documents, including research and applications such as your UF email client. Just take the specific files (like the PowerPoint presentation to be used) needed. The laptop should then be returned to your IT staff to make sure that no malware or spyware was installed while abroad.
  • Storing files locally on that encrypted laptop because you may not have access to cloud services or the UF VPN while in China. Transfer any work product created upon your return from your travel laptop to your regular UF Network location.
  • Prior to travelling, copy the files you’ll be working on to your O365 (OneDrive) or UF Dropbox location—have a backup set of files stored before you go.

UF’s Information Security Office recommends viewing their Security Tips When Traveling Abroad page prior to leaving the country. If you contact the UF Computing Help Desk while in China, they will tell you that UF VPN blocking is a known issue and there is nothing UF staff can do to remedy the situation.