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NAPLES, Italy — When battalions of journalists descended on Beijing to cover the 2008 Olympics, there was indignation, and outrage directed at the Chinese government for blocking access to certain Internet sites. Some described it as the Great Firewall of China. But the Chinese government isn’t the only one blocking Web sites these days.

Trying to access the official Olympic Web site (, or the English version, from a computer on a U.S. military server will turn up only a "Web site cannot be found" message. Similar problems are encountered when trying to access other Chinese sites with a .cn domain.

When asked to try to log on to the Olympic Web site, users at Aviano Air Base, Italy, and U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, Germany, said they could not access the site.

Access also was blocked to other China-based Web sites, such as, the English language Chinese news service, and, the official Chinese government Web site, from the Navy base in Naples.

The reason for the blockage is a bit unclear.

Asked if all Chinese Web sites — those with a dot-cn domain — were blocked from DOD computers, officials from Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations, the organization that oversees computer network security for DOD, gave an answer as cryptic as the scoring system for Olympic boxing.

"As a matter of policy and practice, the JTF-GNO does not offer specific information on issues pertaining to the operation and defense of the DOD’s Global Information Grid," officials said in a written statement.

While all Chinese Web sites appear to be blocked on U.S. military servers, officials will not say the country domain has specifically been singled out.

However, getting on Cuban ( or Iranian sites ( — you’ll need to know Farsi to read this one) from a military computer is no problem.

In addition, the Chinese sites can be accessed by other DOD employees using nonmilitary servers.

One possible explanation for the blockage of Chinese sites is that vulnerability to Chinese-based hackers has been an ongoing problem. There have been numerous reports of successful attacks on U.S. government networks, including at Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, the U.S. Naval Academy and the Pentagon.

In March, CNN reported on several hackers in China who claimed to have been paid by the Beijing government after successfully — and repeatedly — breaching Pentagon networks.

The Chinese government has continuously denied the allegations. While every organization sets its own policies regarding computer security, computer experts say just getting on the Internet can render a network vulnerable.

"Internet sites can be used to create open links to other computers and gain access into other systems," said Lt. Cmdr. James Bogden, an information assurance officer with Commander, Naval Forces Europe.

The technique known as cross-scripting blocks intended code for the Web page, and replaces them with a hacker’s own code, Bogden explained.

"This is one way viruses can be loaded into a system. It could provide access to another server or redirect users to a fake Web site. There are many techniques hacker use to gain access to other systems," Bogden said.

"Virus protection reduces, but doesn’t eliminate threats."

"As to whether certain sites may be restricted, DOD policy is that government computers are to be used for official purposes, in accordance with Joint Ethics Regulations governing ethics, security, and bandwidth issues," Timothy Madden, spokesman for JTF-GNO said. "It is against DOD policy to block a Web site based on the content or viewpoints expressed on the site," Madden said.


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