HELP US HELP YOU! Contact us before you travel to China. If you need assistance please contact the Smith IT Service Desk prior to your travel. Many faculty and staff travel during the holiday season. Please be aware the Office of Smith IT is closed on official University holidays so contact us during our regular scheduled hours: http://it.rhsmith.umd.edu/operating-hours
China has many regulations and laws that restrict access to large swathes of the internet, blocking connections and access with the colloquially named “Great Firewall of China”. In February 2006, Google made a significant concession to the Great Firewall of China, in exchange for equipment installation on Chinese soil, by blocking websites which the Chinese government deemed illegal. Google reversed this policy in 2010, refusing to continue to censor results. This led to increasing difficulty in accessing Google services in China, especially since the summer of 2014, escalating further in December, although in early January 2015 it has eased somewhat.
BEFORE YOU TRAVEL
A VPN client allows you to connect to a remote network by ‘tunnelling’ your internet traffic through an encrypted communication channel. In non-geek talk, if you use the University VPN client on your computer when travelling, every time you access a server or site at the University, that traffic is protected and sent through the secure tunnel and cannot be intercepted. This can help greatly in situations where traffic is being monitored such as in China. Unless China starts blocking all traffic to the University you can send/receive data back and forth to the University without filtering.
The University VPN client is provided by the campus Division of IT and as it no longer automatically updated you should download and install the latest version before you travel, even if you previously installed it. This link (http://ter.ps/vpnclient) will take you to the KB article that explains how to download, install and run the VPN client. You can find the Mac version of the VPN client on the Terpware site under the Mac software area.
It’s vital that you test your setup before you travel. Getting support remotely can be difficult with the time zone differences, inability for Smith IT to access your computer and if the firewall is blocking you, you may not be able to download and install the software you need to connect if you’re in China. If there are any problems with your setup, please contact the Office of Smith IT Service Desk so we can assist. For issues with the VPN client we will probably have to refer you to the Division of IT but we may spot an easy to fix problem and get you up and running quickly before you travel. Please do not wait until the last minute, or when the University is closed as there may be no resources to assist you until after you leave.
To test the setup, you’ll need to first launch the VPN client, then access the SmithApps website and launch the Smoogle shortcut.
Launch the VPN client and login with your University Directory ID and password when you need to connect to University resources remotely. This will encrypt all your traffic to the University and protect it’s content. Note that any traffic going to other websites or services will not pass through the VPN client (e.g. if you go cnn.com, then the VPN tunnel will not be used and your traffic will go over the internet as normal).
Open your web browser and go to the SmithApps website (smithapps.rhsmith.umd.edu) and login with your University Directory ID and password. Launch the Smoogle application and the Citrix client will start and then you’ll see Internet Explorer and the login page for Google. Use your Smith email address and your Google password to login and start working with your email.
If you have any please contact the Office of Smith IT Service Desk on 301 405 2269 or firstname.lastname@example.org before you travel.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that you will be more successful at getting straight to Google websites when connecting from hotels than from public wi-fi hotspots. You may have much more success with your mobile device such as iPhone or Android device as the protocols they use do not seem to be filtered as much as web traffic.
If you cannot connect directly to Gmail to read your messages, you can see if you can connect directly to SmithApps. If you can’t connect to SmithApps, launch the VPN client and connect to the University network, then try SmithApps again.
If you still cannot connect to SmithApps to read your email there is not much more we can suggest. You can try again later, or try a different location (much of the internet censorship in China is self-enforced, so a different wifi location may work better). We strongly discourage you from buying and installing a 3rd party VPN client in China as it may be infected with malware, spyware, key loggers etc and you may compromise your computer, accounts and University data. Otherwise if you are still unable to connect you should try again later as networks are massively interconnected so your next attempt may route through a different pathway and (hopefully) bypass particular sections of the firewall.