Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Circumvent government censors

Web tool called psiphon has found a better way to circumvent government censors - Technology & Media - International Herald Tribune: "Psiphon can be downloaded by a person in an uncensored country via, turning that person's computer into an access point. Someone in a restricted-access country can then log into that computer through an encrypted connection and, using it as a proxy, gain access to censored sites.

The designers say there is no evidence on the user's computer of having viewed censored material once they erase their Internet history after each use. The software is part of a broader effort to live up to the initial hopes that human rights advocates had for the Internet to provide unprecedented freedom of expression to residents of restrictive countries.

When it opened in 2000, the Citizen Lab, one of four institutions in the OpenNet Initiative, at, was actively monitoring a handful of countries - mainly China, Iran and Saudi Arabia - that censored the Internet. But citing increased filtering by governments, the lab now monitors more than 40 countries.

The program's designers say that existing anti-censorship programs are too complicated for everyday computer users, leave evidence on the user's computer and lack security because they have to be advertised publicly, making it easy for censors to detect them and block access. "Now you will have potentially thousands, even tens of thousands, of private proxies that are almost impossible for censors to follow one by one," said Qiang Xiao, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California at Berkeley.

Instead of publicly advertising the required login and password information, psiphon is designed to be shared within trusted social circles of friends, family and co-workers. This feature is meant to keep the program away from censors but is also the largest drawback because it limits efforts to get the program to as many people as possible."

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