China has built a wall. These days, walls are not only built upon hills and fields,
but in the internet as well. The people living in China live behind a wall, and
only officially approved content may pass this wall. Since thousands of reporters
are entering the middle kingdom these days to report about the Olympics and advance
the international understanding, they too will have to pass this wall if they want to
'leave' the country via the internet, just like the Chinese people have to.
As a matter of fact, an electronic wall is more holey than its physical
counterpart. With only minor technical means and perhaps a little help from
outside, everyone can create their own hole in this wall. Not only is censorship
in the internet an unfair attempt to control information. It is destined to fail.
We want to show that you don't have to live with the censorship. We want
to help reporters and other interested parties to find their hole in the
wall and to make use of the right of every human being, to have free
access to information.
How does internet censorship work?
Internet communication is transmitted via cable or satellite. This makes
creating a wall easier from one point of view: you only have to establish
effective barriers at the gates. But, an internet 'tollkeeper' -- just
like his real world counterpart -- cannot simply block the border. He
has to decide what is allowed to pass and what not.
For example, an internet 'tollkeeper' can see which computers
want to talk to one another. Say, a computer called 'Alice'
in China wants to have a look at a website located on a computer
from abroad called 'Bob'. Alice sends a request to Bob. The internet
tollkeeper consults his blacklist. If Bob is on that list, the message
sent to Alice is not allowed to pass. Instead, the tollkeeper may decide
to send an own answer to Alice, or to send nothing at all.
Of course, in addition to seeing the source and destination of a
message, the tollkeeper has access to the whole content of the
message and can consult various blacklists. He may search the
request message and any answer to that message for subversive
content; he can check the length of the message, and whether the
sender is on a blacklist. But just like at a physical border,
the things a tollkeeper is on the lookout for can be hidden.
And, just like in the real world, there are queues in the
internet that grow longer while the border processing is in
How do you walk through the wall?
In fact, the task of an internet tollkeeper is more complicated.
He can only filter and censor data that he can see. Because of that,
some network services exist that allow to package the critical data in
a way protecting them from censorship. In principle, there's three
ways to smuggle data in or out of the country via internet:
1. Using a proxy
A proxy is a computer somewhere in the internet which is programmed to
relay data. The connection between a web browser and a proxy should be
encrypted the same way connections to online banking sites are encrypted.
(Using SSL) The censor only sees that encrypted data is exchanged between
the proxy and the webbrowser. Proxies are available for other internet
services besides the www as well, such as email or chat. However,
for most services, the configuration of proxies is rather complicated.
There are a lot of free and non-free proxy services available in the
2. The anonymizer
An anonymizer relays all internet communication of a computer through
some other computers in the internet, making it hard to trace the original
source of a request. Both the communication between a computer and the
anonymizer-server, and the communication between two or more anonymizer-
servers are encrypted, making it very hard for outsiders to access the
original data. A disatvantage of anonymizing services is the fact that
they are usually pretty slow. The most important and best working
anonymizing network is the TOR project.
3. VPN (virtual private network)
Ein VPN ist ein
A VPN is an encrypted tunnel from your own computer to a so called endpoint.
All requests sent through the tunnel are encrypted and therefore not
available to or controllable by the censor. Usually, VPNs are used
to allow mobile computers secure access to a company network. Through
the endpoint the computer is treated as though it was part of the
company network. A VPN requires installation of a small software
package and doing some simple configuration. A lot of editorial
offices already offer their journalists VPN connections; it is
therefore a good idea to ask your IT department for further
information. In addition to that, there are a lot of free and
non-free providers offering VPN endpoints somewhere in the free internet.