Alibaba Cloud Helps Chinese Students Overcome the Great Firewall with Fortinet VPN

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China’s Alibaba Group is using the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions as an opportunity to reach out to Chinese students. China has instituted the Great Firewall of China, which restricts people from accessing foreign websites while inside the country. In addition to sites like Facebook and Twitter, which have little educational value, the Great Firewall also makes it impossible to connect to the websites of universities that Chinese students attend—at least it did before Alibaba stepped up, in conjunction with the Fortinet cybersecurity company, to provide a legal solution.



At first, users had the option of using a typical virtual private network (VPN) to bypass the Great Firewall. A VPN can make it look like you are accessing the internet from another location, thus concealing a user’s location and identity. However, China banned the use of VPNs as well, leaving even well-meaning users without a viable option.

Alibaba partnered with the Fortinet company to provide a government-approved Fortinet VPN solution that enables students to participate in classes, interact with teachers and classmates, and hand in their work even from behind the Great Firewall of China.

Coronavirus and the Campus Shutdown

The coronavirus pandemic has required many universities all over the world to shutter their doors. In some cases, the schools were heavily dependent on Chinese students—and vice versa. Chinese students who had already paid tuition and begun their coursework now had no way of learning because campuses had been shut down. The Great Firewall of China made the situation more difficult to manage because students could not join their classmates to take advantage of remote learning opportunities designed by the universities they were attending.

The campus shutdown has a significant impact on Chinese students. In Australia, the number of Chinese people attending Australian institutions dropped 6% from 2015 to 2020. Canada saw a 6% drop as well, while the numbers for the United States plummeted 14%. Therefore, Alibaba Cloud’s move to support Chinese learners paves the way for thousands of students to continue their education despite not being able to physically go to the university of their choice.

Thanks to Fortinet, Chinese students can use a VPN that is not only effective but legal and safe. The Fortinet VPN gives students a convenient way of getting online and “into” their classes without having to worry about their transmissions getting intercepted along the way.

Alibaba Cloud—Skirting the Great Chinese Firewall Through Fortinet VPN

Alibaba Cloud has seized on the situation presented by the pandemic and stepped up to support Chinese students. Using Fortinet technology, it has arranged for a VPN that Chinese students can use to access their universities’ programs. With the Fortinet VPN, Chinese students can work with their classmates as if they were side by side. Furthermore, they can connect without endangering their own data or those of the class or students with whom they connect.

The Fortinet VPN provides students with a secure connection option because it encrypts the data that flows between the student’s device and the network with which they are connecting. As the student’s data enters the network, it gets encrypted before getting exposed to the rest of the internet. This creates a secure tunnel through which the data can pass. Because of the encryption, an attacker or eavesdropper would not be able to read the data as it flows through. Even if they are able to intercept the data stream, what they get would be a seemingly random set of garbled text.

When the data goes to the other end, it gets decrypted using the same encryption algorithm that encoded it as it entered. This makes it readable and understandable for devices that need to display it or use it. Because the encryption code is not known by any entity other than Fortinet VPN devices, the overall transmission is secure.

Universities Can Now Operate Fortinet Software Products

An additional benefit to universities that use the Fortinet VPN is they can access Fortinet software products that are listed on Alibaba Cloud. This gives them tools they would otherwise not have convenient access to—tools that increase the safety for everyone that connects to their network. A university could use Fortinet Chinese products to not only connect with their Chinese students during the pandemic but also to set up systems for connecting safely with students in the future—long after the pandemic has passed.

This empowers schools to extend secure remote learning opportunities to students, making it possible for students to connect without leaving their home country. This added level of convenience could save students and their families money, not to mention the time it takes to travel back and forth to campus. With a legal Chinese VPN, a university can also set up entire remote learning programs, offering students options for earning their undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degrees from home.

Schools can also control the functionality of the connection for their students. Some websites are known targets for scammers and hackers looking to take advantage of users. For example, some websites are used to spread malware. When a user clicks on a link to the site or clicks a link while on the site, malware is downloaded onto their computer. The malware can then be used to damage the computer, gain control of it, lock the user out, or provide a backdoor for a hacker to gain access to the machine.

Fortunately, with the Fortinet VPN provided by Alibaba Cloud, universities can block malicious websites. Students can use the internet without having to worry about going to the sites the university has put on the blocked list.Alibaba Cloud can also use Fortinet products to protect students from attacks by hackers while they are logged in to the university’s connection. Unlike a normal internet connection, which may allow hackers to take advantage of students, a connection secured with Fortinet software can provide users a malware-free experience. In this way, Fortinet’s partnership with Alibaba Cloud is making education more accessible to thousands of Chinese students.