New hacker's tool for fighting Internet censorship
By CHRISTOPHER MASON
Published: November 27, 2006
TORONTO, Nov. 21 — Deep in a basement lab at the University of Toronto a team of political scientists, software engineers and computer-hacking activists, or “hactivists,” have created the latest, and some say most advanced tool yet in allowing Internet users to circumvent government censorship of the Web.
The program, called psiphon (pronounced “SY-fon”), will be released on Dec. 1 in response to growing Internet censorship that is pushing citizens in restrictive countries to pursue more elaborate and sophisticated programs to gain access to Western news sites, blogs and other censored material . . . . . . .
Psiphon is downloaded by a person in an uncensored country (psiphon.civisec.org), 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 . . . . . .
“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, 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.
The software is also designed to allow users to post on blogs and other Web sites like Wikipedia, which has been a problem for some other anticensorship programs.
Banning commenters is often done by means of IP addresses. One of the problems with IP-address bans is that often several people share the same IP address or IP address range. Anyway, I don't need to get into a long discussion of IP addresses here.
Of course, one of the drawbacks of the "psiphon" program is that the computer you are using as an anonymous proxy must be logged onto the Internet. Another drawback is that the site you are hacking may eventually learn the IP address of the computer that you are using as a proxy and block that address. However, a lot of people are logged onto the Internet most of the time and you could have several Internet users to choose from. Also, "psiphon" of course cannot prevent your comments from being deleted after posting or being held up for "moderation" before posting (but psiphon should prevent your comments from being singled out for moderation).
The "user guide" and the source code are not yet available on http://psiphon.civisec.org/ but should be available soon -- the program is scheduled for release on December 1. I am looking forward to seeing how effective it is as a means of bypassing commenter bans.
Labels: Internet censorship (1 of 2)