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How to Circumvent Online Censorship

By Alex Nimoy
How to Circumvent Online Censorship

Sometimes organizations use software to prevent their users from accessing websites on the web. The act is a type of online censorship. It is also called blocking or internet filtering. So then, filtering comes in different forms. Even with encryption, censors can block internet technologies or entire websites.
In some cases, content gets blocked based on the keywords it contains. Also, censors can block individual web pages if sites aren't encrypted.
There are various ways of circumventing online censorship. Some ways protect you from surveillance, but most of them do not. For instance, someone who controls your internet connection can filter or block a site. To get information from the site, you can use a circumvention tool.
Yet, not all circumvention tools that promise security or privacy are secure or private. Also, not all anonymizing tools keep your identity a complete secret.

Choosing a Good Circumvent Tool

The best circumvent tool depends on your security plan. If you don't know how to create a security plan, then seek guidance. While creating a security plan, take precautions. For example, the person who controls your internet connection may notice. In turn, they might take action against you.

How Online Censorship and Surveillance Works

The internet has many processes that should work together for effective communication. If a person tries to block parts of the internet, they target different parts of the system.

The techniques employed depend on what technology and devices they have. Besides, their knowledge and resources have an impact on the techniques.

Online Surveillance and Censorship

Online surveillance and censorship go hand-in-hand. Online censorship takes place in two processes:

  1. Spot "unacceptable" activity
  2. Block "unacceptable" activity

Spotting "unacceptable" activity is the same as online surveillance. Network administrators can see your activity on the internet. Hence, they can decide whether to block it or not. We should advocate for internet and data privacy tools and technologies. This way, we can make internet filtering and block harder.

Blocking internet traffic is not free. Moreover, over-blocking is more costly. For example, the Chinese government does not sensor GitHub's website. Even if many anti-government newsletters get hosted on the website. To perform work that is beneficial to the Chinese economy, software developers need to access GitHub.

The censors concluded that it will cost more to block GitHub than they would gain by unblocking it. However, not all censors would make a similar decision. An example, temporary internet blackouts are becoming very common. Besides, the measures can seriously harm our local economies.

How Online Censorship and Surveillance Happen

How to Circumvent Online Censorship1
Blocking and filtering on devices is common in schools and workplaces. Someone who manages computers and phones can install software on them. This is to limit how the devices get used. Following that, the software changes how the devices work. Moreso, it can make the devices unable to access specific sites.

How to Circumvent Online Censorship2

Also, the software limits online communication in certain ways. Likewise, spyware work that way.

Local network filtering is also standard in workplaces and schools. The network administrator enforces some limits on your internet activity. For example, controlling where you go online or when searching for specific keywords.

Some ISP's market filtered connections directly to customers as an option. Then they apply specific censorship methods to all connections on their ISPs. They do this even if a government doesn't require it. But because some of their customers want it.

Basically, IP addresses are locations of computers on the internet. As a result, every piece of data sent over the internet has a "To" and "From" address. Network administrators create lists of locations that correspond to services they want to block. So, they can block any data on the network that gets delivered to or from the locations.
Since many services can get hosted at the exact location, that may lead to over-blocking. Again, many people share any given IP address for their internet access. Other types of blocking include:

* DNS blocking

* Keyword filtering

* Site filtering

* Port blocking

Blocking and filtering are often used to prevent people from accessing specific services or sites. Even so, different types of blocking are becoming more common. A network shutdown can involve physically unplugging network infrastructure. For this reason, connections get physically prevented or become unusable. 

Throttling is another type of blocking that is harder to identify. Many government censors slow down connections to specific sites rather than blocking them. Consequently, the ISP denies that they are restricting access. Thus, people think that their internet connection is slow. Some might also think that the service they are connecting to is not working.

Circumvention Techniques

If there is less information about your internet activity, it can be harder for ISP to block activity. For this reason, using internet-wide encryption standards can help. Change your DNS provider if ISP is only relying on DNS blocking. Instead, use encrypted DNS to restore your access.

You can change your DNS provider in the "network settings" of your computer. 

On the other hand, encrypted DNS prevents any network actor from seeing your DNS traffic.

Using the Tor Browser

Tor is software made to give anonymity on the web. Tor Browser is created on top of the Tor anonymity network. It allows you to circumvent censorship because it routes web browsing traffic.

Cybercriminals also use the browser to access the dark web. The darknet is a platform booming with criminal activity such as the sale of illegal weapons. Other people also access the dark web for non-criminal reasons. Tor covers the tracks of dark web users. In addition, cryptocurrency is used in transactions to avoid getting tracked.

When using the Tor Browser, specify that you are on a network that is censored. With time, Tor will bypass some national censorship. Also, when properly configured, it protects your identity from an adversary. Yet, it can be slow and difficult to use. On the contrary, your network administrator may notice that you are using Tor. 

Some users use a VPN to circumvent online censorship. It encrypts and sends all internet data from your computer via a server. To bypass censorship on a mobile device, android users can download <u>Orbot</u><u></u>and <u>Orweb</u>.

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