April 16, 2003 7:24 AM PDT

Software rams great firewall of China

The news and propaganda wing behind the U.S. government's Voice of America broadcasts has commissioned software that lets Chinese Web surfers sneak around the boundaries set by their government.

The software enables PC users running Microsoft's Windows XP or 2000 operating systems to set up a simple version of what's known as a circumvention Web server, or a computer that essentially digs a tunnel under a firewall set up by a government, corporation, school or other organization.

In this case, the United States is eyeing the millions of Chinese Web surfers stuck behind their government's firewall--as well as other people around the world who are prevented from downloading American news and propaganda.

"The news is highly censored," said Ken Berman, program manager for Internet anticensorship at the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), which puts out the Voice of America radio and Internet transmissions, along with other international programs. "The Chinese government jams all of our radio broadcasts and blocks access by their people to our Web site. We want to allow the people there to have the tools to be able to have a look at it."

China keeps a particularly strong lock on the Internet. The government has blocked popular search engines and prevailed on Western companies such as Yahoo to voluntarily restrict their Web content in China. In one U.S. study, China was found to be blocking 19,000 Web sites including those providing news, health information, political coverage and entertainment.

In November, Amnesty International named 33 companies including Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and Cisco Systems that it said were providing the Chinese with technology to achieve its Internet censorship aims.

The idea behind the U.S.-backed software is to allow someone trying to evade a firewall to tunnel under it via a third-party computer not blocked by the firewall. The software, which uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), lets the person who installs it set up a miniature Web site through which a firewall-restricted surfer can access the rest of the Web.

In addition to circumventing firewalls, the software also creates anonymity by covering the Web surfer's tracks and leaving no record of what sites he or she visited beyond the miniature Web site.

The software being tested grew out of a December roundtable in which participants raised the possibility of skirting the Chinese information blockade. In response, the IBB commissioned anticensorship activist Bennett Haselton for an undisclosed sum to craft a user-friendly circumvention server.

Haselton on Wednesday posted instructions on how to use the software on his Peacefire Web site.

Similar software already exists but without sufficient ease of use that it could achieve widespread international distribution.

The IBB hasn't figured out exactly how it will distribute the software, or how it will solve the chicken-and-egg conundrum of getting the word out to people who are prevented from hearing the IBB's message in the first place. One possible solution is to tap dissident expatriate communities that maintain ties to their homeland.

According to an unscientific survey conducted last year, the Chinese make up the second largest national group surfing the Web, after Americans.

The pairing of the U.S. government and Haselton--who is noted for opposing efforts in public libraries and schools to install filtering software on government-funded computers--makes something of an odd couple.

In fact, the IBB's research and development dollars could ultimately wind up undermining U.S.-supported efforts to restrict Web surfing and blocking software--not to mention content filters that are in use in other contexts.

What, for example, if the repressive regime turns out to be a curious teenager's parents?

"We're trying to get people to run circumventor software," the IBB's Berman said. "Once it's running, does 13-year-old Joey find it? We like to call our program a portal to democracy. Whether the same tools are used by teenagers here--it's difficult to try to put controls on that."

For his own part, Haselton cheerfully acknowledged the potential domestic application of his circumvention.

"It also apparently works to get around most blocking software proxies and client programs used in the U.S., although there are ways that blocking software companies could counteract it," according to Haselton. "But until they do implement the countermeasures and convince everybody to upgrade, it will work to defeat a lot of the home and school blocking software programs as well."


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Posted by nawash (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
The workaround URL is blocked
The workaround URL is blocked too.
Posted by ssarkarhyd (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
i need this software!
i'm sick of being unable to access websites. it's so difficult for expats living in china... for expats who have had freedom all their lives to come live in such a restricted society. i dont foreigners or expats should be limited to the internet. the only reason the gov is blocking this info. is so that their own people wont find out too much.. but it doesn't make sense for foreigners because they already know the truth about everything !!! please inform us on how to get the software! i need it~~~
Posted by urbnabc (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
cant surf the internet w/o a VPN in china now. im using Freedur now. i've been using VPN since the Chinese gov blocked Youtube. Freedur is the best i have ever used so far. very fast and stable. it rocks
Posted by jajalolo (2 comments )
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Fyi, the owner of Freedur Chris Mathews and his operations are very shady. There is so many bad comments floating around the internet about Chris Mathews, Freedur, ShoeMash and OpenTerrace LTD. Supposedly, Chris Mathews has stolen Freedur from its real owner - StackFile (owner - Paul Hay).

Freedur server is full of stolen files, just as example - https://freedur.net/images/placeholder/stackfile_logo.jpg

You can read the law suit against Freedur/Chris Mathews here http://www.skydur.com/law-suit-against-chris-mathews.php.

If I were you I would stay away from Freedur, ShoeMask and Open Terrace LTD.

Posted by simon1978011 (2 comments )
Link Flag
The above comment and content of links are fabricated lies. Skydur is a copycat service that was created after Obrad Grujic, Paul Hay, and Jovica Mizdrak (all former developers of the Freedur application terminated due to poor work quality and ethics) hijacked the Freedur servers and fraudulently posted lies posing as Freedur staff on our own website. The hacking incident took place back in August 2009 and caused severe damages and grief to our company and customers. The whole, and definitive true story can be found within OUR lawsuit against them:

*Currently we are only able to pursue Paul Hay and Stackfile Corp via the court, as Grujic lives in Serbia and Mizdrak lives in Australia.

Currently, the perpetrators operate under the following identities: Stackfile, Skydur, and Astrill. All of these entities either do not exist as a real company or are suspended. Stackfile Corp is suspended by the State of California. A search for "Stackfile" at -http://kepler.sos.ca.gov will reveal its current status.

The Skydur individuals are attempting to confuse the public by accusing Freedur and its owners of doing what they actually did to us. Their continuing campaign of defamation, lies and distortion will be resolved in court. Their malicious and fraudulent misrepresentations of facts speak for themselves. Please support us by seeking the truth of the matter.
Posted by chrismathews (2 comments )
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