Microsoft Bing’s Outage in China was a Technical Error

Microsoft Corp’s search engine Bing’s outage in China a week ago was a technical error, before an intentional censorship block, a source familiar with the matter said, though Chinese officials and Microsoft have not remarked on the topic.

Microsoft Corp. Bing logo displayed on smartphone.

From a technical outlook, a person at Microsoft Corp told a news agency, the site seemed to have been blocked in a manner similar to sites blocked by the government.

However, the corporation had received no prior notice from officials, and the disruption was not planned on the part of the administration, added the person, who refused to be recognized, refer to the sensitivity of the matter.

Microsoft was not right away free for comment on Monday. A week ago, even though it confirmed the outage, it refused to give information.

The Cyberspace Administration of China did not answer immediately to a sent request from a news agency looking for comment.

Starting from Thursday, Internet users in China trying to access cn.bing.com, the search engine’s domestic URL, found them directed to an error page.

Tries to sign in to Facebook, Google search, or other sites blocked by China’s Great Firewall, experienced a similar fate.

Service had continued by late on Friday, though.

Engineers at ExpressVPN, a provider of virtual private network (VPN) software enabling internet users in China to access censored websites, ran tests amid the outage to determine its origin.

They found that instead of domain name service (DNS) poisoning, the most common method for blocking sites under the Great Firewall, Bing’s outage seemed to employ a method known as “black-holing”.

With this technique, rather than re-directing to a dummy server traffic headed for a particular website, the traffic is simply cut off in route, usually at the internet service provider (ISP) level.

Express VPN Vice President Harold Li said black-holing boosts the probability of an accidental block, against the more typical DNS poisoning, however he added that the corporation could not confirm the precise nature of the outage.

“We have no idea if it was an accident or not, but it’s much easier to make the mistake of blocking Bing when you’re blocking a set of IP addresses,” he said, referring to website addresses.

Bing has long been the only major foreign search engine available in China, which blocked access to Alphabet’s Google search platform beginning in 2010. Microsoft changes Bing’s results to evade governmentally sensitive matters, in line with government policy.

Bing’s outage came a day after an extensively read article by a Chinese journalist criticizing the quality of search outcomes from Baidu Inc., the dominant domestic search engine.

That led some internet users to speculate the two incidents were connected. The company has endured regular public reaction since 2016, when a Chinese student died after looking for treatment at a hospital that advertised on Baidu.

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