Alibaba Cloud, the largest cloud provider in China, has partnered with Fortinet during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide uninterrupted internet connectivity to students around the world.
To stop the spread of the virus, many elementary schools, high schools, and universities had to shut down their campuses, only allowing students to learn remotely by connecting with their teachers over videoconferencing systems. Teachers have been live-streaming their classes and sending students materials over the internet in an effort to create a learning atmosphere despite the pandemic restrictions.
For universities with Chinese students, this presents a challenge. While in the Chinese mainland, students are bound by the laws of the land, which ban the use of virtual private networks (VPNs). Foreign universities depend on these kinds of connections to ensure their Chinese students get the education they need and have paid for. Fortunately, with the help of Fortinet, Alibaba Cloud has provided a solution: a Fortinet VPN.
Alibaba Cloud Helping Chinese Students Overcome the Great Firewall of China
Under Chinese law, it is illegal to access certain websites from outside the country. To enforce this policy, China set up what has become known as the “Great Firewall of China.” For years, people were circumventing the rules by using VPNs. With a VPN, you can mask the Internet Protocol (IP) address of your computer and use one provided by the VPN service.
An IP address identifies the device you are using and where it is located. With a VPN, you can make it appear as if you are accessing the internet from a different country than the one you are physically in. This allowed Chinese users to access sites like Facebook and Twitter, which the government had banned.
To prevent its citizens from getting on banned sites, China made a law against the use of VPNs, effectively preventing law-abiding users from connecting with foreign sites. Unfortunately, this also prevents them from getting transmissions from universities in which they are enrolled.
Only a few companies are allowed to offer VPN services in China, and Alibaba is one of them. Alibaba Cloud partnered with Fortinet China to build its Cloud Enterprise Network. Fortinet supplies the software that powers the network. Furthermore, Fortinet has enabled universities to buy its software on the Alibaba Cloud marketplace and then deploy and use it to suit their individual needs. In this way, the universities can manage and operate their own Fortinet VPN services, providing full access to course material and classes to students living in mainland China.
Alibaba Joined Hands with Fortinet to Help Students in Australia
Australian universities and their students have suffered a significant blow at the hands of the COVID-19 pandemic. The decrease in demand has endangered the jobs of around 20,000 professors, administrators, and support staff. The impact of the pandemic on the university-based research infrastructure of the country has been worse than what was experienced during the 2008 financial crisis.
For students, the struggle is even more significant. At first, plans were put in place to gradually transition international students back to Australia’s universities. However, as the COVID numbers climbed in the country—as well as those of many international students—the plans were put on hold. The projected number of students returning each week instantly dropped from 1,000 to zero due to fresh outbreaks.
Australia had been on track to surpass Britain as the number two choice for international students, but COVID-19 has halted all progress. The difficulties are even greater for students who have few options, whether in the country or internationally, as to where they will get their education.
The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Australian universities are very popular with Chinese nationals. Up to a third of Australia’s overseas students hail from China.
However, with the help of Fortinet VPN technology, Chinese students of Australian universities have been able to get the education they need. As a leading cybersecurity company, Fortinet not only ensures Alibaba Cloud provides a strong connection but a secure one as well. When a university signs up for Alibaba Cloud, they get the versatility and functionality of the Fortinet solution. As a result, they can manage and adjust security policies according to groups of users or different network conditions.
While some may be wary of shifting to a cloud-based learning environment, because Alibaba Cloud uses Fortinet technology, the transition is safer. Alibaba Cloud provides students and professors with all of the benefits of the Fortinet Security Fabric, which empowers administrators to implement multi-layer protection, preventing a range of threats.
For example, Alibaba Cloud uses FortiGate-VM, which comes with the same security tools as FortiGate, such as deep packet inspection (DPI) and machine learning that can detect potentially dangerous data packets even if they have not already been logged as existing threats on the landscape. Also, with FortiGate, students get a secure connection that is encrypted end to end. This prevents hackers from eavesdropping on classes, individual communications between students and professors, and transmissions of potentially sensitive data.
Alibaba – Integrating with Fortinet
Providing legal access while respecting the Chinese VPN ban and helping Australian students connect are only two ways Fortinet VPN services have contributed to global connectivity. The connections created are not limited to digital transmissions. With tensions rising between the United States and China, a digital handshake using Fortinet technology helps bridge a widening divide.
The United States and China have been embroiled in a simmering trade war, as the United States seeks to limit its dependence on foreign goods. American government officials have also claimed that harmful computer viruses have come from China and have taken steps to try to ban Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. from deploying its technology in the United States’ 5G networks. Some U.S. officials have claimed Huawei’s tech could be used by China to spy on people and systems in the U.S.
Therefore, Fortinet’s peaceful partnership with China models the kind of cooperation that can exist between the two nations while helping the next generation of students get the education they need to succeed in a global marketplace.