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Understanding and Circumventing Network Censorship

By J.Austine
Understanding and Circumventing Network Censorship

This article is primarily to help you in understanding network Censorship. Now, organizations, schools and companies or even internet providers use specific software. This is to deny access to specific websites or services available on the web. This is internet filtering rather called blocking, and it’s a censorship form.  Filtering blocks hosting providers, entire websites or internet technologies.

Understanding and Circumventing Network Censorship

However, there are numerous ways to combat censorship. Some of them are ideal in offering protection against surveillance whereas quite a number don’t. If someone controlling your net blocks or filters a site, you can circumvent using a tool to reach the information you need.
The best tool for circumvention often depends on the plan of security. You can start by creating a security plan if you are starting off. However, be sure your internet connection controller may notice your activity. The person may know the technique or tool you’re using and even consider taking an action against you.

Understanding Internet Censorship

Getting your communications done the right way requires a lot of processes. These ensures everything works in a proper way and together from one place to another. If someone yearns to block the internet, they will have to target different parts of your system. Their method of use will be based on technology in use, devices they can control, their knowledge and resources and their position to reveal their intention to others.

Surveillance and Censorship

Internet surveillance and censorship are two sides of the coin. It is a two-step process:
Spot “unacceptable” activity
Block “unacceptable” activity

The first process is similar to internet surveillance. If your internet administrator can monitor your movement online, it is probably within their control to block the activity or to leave it. But blocking or internet filtering can be difficult if you use internet and data privacy tools.
Circumvention techniques are beneficial to this by protecting your information from network snobbery when you surf the internet.

What is the Cost of Surveillance?

Blocking the internet is costly and understanding it is very vital. And, it’s even worse when you want to over-block it because its way costly. For example: The Chinese government doesn’t censor the GitHub’s website hosting many anti-government newsletters. Despite not censoring, Chinese software developers have to access GitHub to perform all tasks that benefit its economy since its costly to block the site and the economy will not gain much from the blocking.
Even though China resorted to this, not all countries can make a similar decision. In the recent happenings, temporary internet blackouts are becoming a common norm despite the actions harming the local economies enormously.

Where and How Network Censorship Happen

When you try to log in to a specific website like https://eff.org which has a listing on IP address, your request is made possible by passing it through various devices like Internet Service Provider and  home network router before reaching the ultimate IP address then it finally loads into your computer. Censorship happens by:
Blocking on your devices – Happens mostly in schools and workplaces where computers are managed in order not to reach specific sites or communicate in specific ways.
Local network filtering – Here someone forces a limit on internet activity like controlling sites you visit or specific keyword searches.
Blocking by Internet Service Provider – Your IPS is like a local internet administrator and has a duty to regularly filter and censor the internet. Some are government agencies while commercial ones offer the filtering service to employers and households.

Understanding How Blocking Happens

Internet blocking ways include:
IP address blocking – This is where the locations of the computer are blocked. For a computer to function, an IP address has to indicate To what address and From address. Internet administrators may block some locations making such sites unreachable.
DNS blocking – When you get online, often you connect through an internet service provider. Your ISP is the one giving you the default DNS resolver. So, you may be blocked by an administrator by programming the DNS resolver to give the wrong answer when looking for locations of a blocked site.
Keyword filtering – ISP may block some web pages because of the content they provide more so if traffic is encrypted. Though its immensely unpopular since encrypted sites are increasing day by day.
HTTPS site filtering – Https sites have all their content encrypted except the site’s name. ISP can still block these sites because of the name.
Protocol and port blocking – Here a firewall or router may be used to know the type of technology an individual is using when communicating and block certain sites based on the technical details on how they communicate.
Network shutdown – This involves physically unplugging infrastructures supporting network like network cables, routers, cellular towers to bar people from having internet connections.
Throttling – Internet providers can decide to slow down various types of traffic. Instead of blocking specific sites, the government censors decide to throttle – slow down the process making people refrain from such sites citing unresponsiveness.

Circumvention Techniques

If there is no information about a user’s internet activity, it’s hard for an internet provider to block some activities. This requires someone to use encryption services to hide all activities when surfing the internet. Here are ways to be smarter:

Use encrypted DNS or change your DNS provider

If internet filtering relies on DNS blocking, changing it or encrypting will be a safer plan to have full access. Change your DNS provider by giving your new provider access to your settings so that they take full charge of all your internet activity. For encrypted DNS, use technologies like DNS-over-HTTPS easily on Firefox or DNS-over-TLS on Android to configure your computer and phone respectively.

Use a VPN

Consider using a Virtual Private Network, to encrypt all messages and data you send when using the internet through a server. Once a VPN is configured in the right way, you can easily access dark web sites, e-mails, web pages, instant messaging, and other internet services. Once you have a VPN in place, it will protect your activity from being spied on by hackers and even internet administrators. However, the VPN provider will still have records also referred to as logs of the sites you access or even give a third party the authority to look at the browsing history. Based on the possibility that the government is eavesdropping into your VPN connection, threat model, access to your VPN logs and others, some people tend to think the disadvantages of using a VPN outweigh its benefits.

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