The award winning software aims “to make available Internet content that’s otherwise censored” in the heavily censored countries such as China, Syria and more
July17, 2012: The censorship status in Syria is strict enough to compete with the internet restrictions prevalent in almost any other part of the world. Still, there is a capable software called Psiphon that allows native citizens there to circumvent the limitations and access the portion of internet thus blocked, freely.
Psiphon, the circumvention tool utilizes the capabilities of VPN service, HTTP Proxy and SSH to develop the codebase that comes handy in allowing the users to bypass internet censorship in their respective geographical location.
It aims specifically to assist the users access the internet in nations that are considered as “enemies of the internet” and with no doubts, Syria is one of them, as regarded by the OpenNet Initiative.
The Syrian government is regular at censoring the websites that it finds politically motivated or deterrent to the religious sentiments. Not surprisingly, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) had named the country to be the third most heavily restricted nation in the world in May 2012.
With such strict restrictions making the life of commoners in Syria no less than miserable, Psiphon no wonder acts as a lone ray of hope that allows them to access the websites at their will.
As per the software’s website, its main objective is “to make available Internet content that’s otherwise censored” in places such as Syria, China and beyond. No wonder around 25,000 to 40,000 Syrian people are believed to have been infringing the internet censorship norms on daily basis, thanks to this renowned tool.
Even in Iran, the use of Psiphon is a common thing with around 150,000 people bypassing the restrictions becoming the order of the day. Among the première websites accessed by circumventing the censorship include Facebook, Skype, Twitter and more.
The software that first came into existence in 2004 and later on was relaunched by an independent company of the same name in 2008 to carry on with its services on full-time basis has now become quite a popular tool among the people willing to get over the web censorship.
In an interview, the Chief Executive Officer at Psiphon, Rafal Rohozinski, said “Our secret sauce is how we get our our product into people’s hands,”. He further maintained, “We have ways that we can distribute it – through e-mail, SMS, and physical addresses that people pass and whisper amongst each other, even online games.”
The tool requires the users to install it which then encrypts and securely tunnels the entire internet traffic through foreign server. This server thus acts like a relay and allows the users to access the censored sites.
The foolproof mechanism of this software is yet to be deciphered by the governments which further leads to its ultimate success on a global platter. Commenting on the working of the software, Mr. Rohozinski said “It’s like we designed the world’s best bot net that you agreed to become part of,”.
He added, “What’s more survivable than really well-written computer viruses? The difference is that viruses are designed to take control of your system.”The tool also ensures that it is not used against the users that leverage its service to bypass the restrictions.
Thanks to the expertise with which the professionals have created its servers, they (servers)can retain only limited information that they come across, fair enough to keep track of software’s performance and without leaking any sensitive data about the user. Mr. Rohozinski says that Psiphon’s servers are like an aunt with Alzheimer’s,
However, simultaneously, it is quite possible for the government in Syria and elsewhere to track the presence of software in the nation’s network. Still, they would remain uninformed about the way it is being used. But that little bit information would be more than enough to drag the users in legal hassles, especially if it is in Syria.
Cautioning the users about its side-effects, Mr. Rohozinski said, “If you choose to use an anti-censorship technology, one that breaks whatever laws of your country, that’s the same as going out on the streets during a demonstration. It’s not something that’s inconsequential.”
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