A new approach to overcoming state-level Internet censorship relies, ironically enough, on a technique that security experts have frequently associated with government surveillance.
Current anti-censorship technologies, including the services Tor and Dynaweb, direct connections to restricted websites through a network of encrypted proxy servers, with the aim of hiding who’s visiting such sites from censors. But the censors are constantly searching for and blocking these proxies. A new scheme, called Telex, makes it harder for censors to block communications by disguising traffic destined for restricted sites as traffic meant for popular, uncensored websites. It does this by employing the same method of analyzing packets of data that censors often use.
“To route around state-level Internet censorship, people have relied on proxy servers outside of the country doing the censorship,” says J. Alex Halderman, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan. “The difficulty there is, you have to communicate to those people where the proxies are, and it’s very hard to do that without also letting the government censors figure out where the proxies are.”
The Telex system has two major components: “stations” at dozens of Internet service providers (ISPs)—the stations connect traffic from inside nations that censor to the rest of the Internet—and the Telex client software program that runs on the computers of people who want to avoid censorship.
This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote that was published today in MIT Technology Review. Read the full story here.