Current tools against state's Internet-blocking for censorship

Naveen Jujaray     Follow Jul 05, 2020 · 4 mins read
Current tools against state's Internet-blocking for censorship
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There is a resurgence of draconian State blocking/slowdowns of Internet in Turkey, Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere, with Iraq at the time of writing passing the 104th hour of blackout due to ongoing protests against government corruption, Egypt having over 500 news/rights/etc websites known blocked and Turkey e.g. habitually ordering hundreds of State-takedowns monthly with major knowledge and culture treasures of humankind such as Wikipedia being completely banned for almost 900 days now.

These free of cost options have been verified with people IN current State censorship/blocking as working recently:

  • ProtonVPN has a free of cost mode that should be more than enough for any average user and is motivated by anti-censorship. Works on Linux/Windows/Android/Routers/MacOS/iPhone/iPad.
  • RiseupVPN, the newish Bitmask-based VPN which was previously named Riseup Black.
  • Calyx VPN is similar to RiseupVPN, with same technologies but different addresses, so may be useful if Riseup has already been blocked.
  • Tor Browser Also other Tor-based solutions like Tails and Whonix of course, but Tor Browser is a good cross-platform start. Tor is however a bit slow and triggers so many CAPTCHAs that use may even become practically impossible.
  • WARP the new VPN from CloudFlare. May be difficult for dictatorships to block, as CloudFlare is (unfortunately) a core component of extremely many major commercial/government web-based services nowadays.

For local messaging when/if Internet Service Providers (ISPs) shut down networking completely:

  • Briar has been shown to work.
  • FireChat claims to fill a similar function, but I have not had it verified as working there, now.

Instant-messaging tools with high level of general trust, but which require centralized infrastructure to work:

  • Signal Works on most computers and phones, but uses mobile phone numbers as user identifiers, which are easily traceable by any State and relies on centralized servers for message delivery. Open source.
  • Wire Like above, based on same protocol, but uses e-mail addresses as user identifiers and therefore is much more difficult to trace, as temporary/dedicated e-mail accounts can be used. Open source.
  • Wickr Similar to above. Very limited open source.
  • Silence Completely SMS-based encryption, as Signal was, developed from Signal’s old source code. Useful when there is no mobile data-traffic, but only SMS. Open source.

Other Internet-blocking/slowdown circumvention tools that I haven’t verified to be working right now, but may be good to keep in mind if the previous stop working (Not an endorsement. Make sure to check anonymization, logging, State-collaboration, etc as needed before use):

As the State combines the blockings/slowdowns with arbitrary physical searches of people in the streets and in homes, wherein finding one of the above mentioned tools leads to arrest, it is probably a good idea to hide their presence. For Android, the two first methods here for example may work well.

Documents, videos, software installers, etc can be hidden in encrypted container-files and then placing those files in some obscure place that would not likely be inspected during a regular search, such as in a different program’s data-directories and similar. Encrypted container-files can be created and opened using VeraCrypt (almost all desktop/laptop computers) or EDS (Android).

Using well known functions like “Samsung Secure Folder” or similar from other major manufacturers is probably NOT a good idea, as they are well known enough to have had passwords demanded during arbitrary searches.

As a probably last resort, there is an analog modem number still up in Sweden, which I have not verified myself due to lack of hardware, but a modem answers and using it did work last I heard. Sweden modem phone number: +46708671911 (username “toto”, password “toto”)

Two more analog modem phone numbers that I have not verified at all if they still work are: The Netherlands modem phone number: +31205350535 (username “xs4all”, password “xs4all”) France modem phone number: +33172890150 (username “toto”, password “toto”)

Last, to state the obvious: Absolutely do NOT rely on Facebook (which is also e.g. WhatsApp and Instagram) for dictatorship-banned communications, as they have cooperated with dictatorships’ “lawful court orders” in the past leading to capture, torture and/or executions, at least in Syria therefore presumably also elsewhere and furthermore publicly admitted to being co-responsible for genocide and enabling imprisonment of people for being homosexual through silent automated “interests” categorization being used as court evidence. Better platforms to consider are for example Riseup’s Crabgrass, Mastodon and PeerTube.