Five ways to beat the Great Firewall of China

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Despite China's best efforts, its citizens can access banned content over the Internet via Google and other means

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In the latest protest over Chinese censorship of the Internet, Google is redirecting search requests from within mainland China to its uncensored servers in Hong Kong. This directly defies rules China set up to let Google operate there, but now China itself seems to be censoring the results. Reports say requests for terms such as Falun Gong and June 4 (the date of the Tiananmen Square massacre) return browser messages that requested pages cannot be displayed. Despite the government crackdown there are ways to get around the Great Firewall, and here is a rundown of a few of them.

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VPNs

You download a client and set up a secure tunnel with a proxy server that seeks the site you want for you. Because the connection to the proxy server is encrypted, censors can't tell where users are going or what they are seeking information about. The direct requests from the proxy server to the sites in question can't be linked to the actually requester. There are free offerings such as www.hotspotshield.com that provide this service, but you have to tolerate ads.

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Open proxies

These servers that anyone can access route traffic to its destination but can mask the IP address of the sender. So a person in China trying to access a forbidden site would access the IP address of a proxy server that is not blocked. If the attempted access was to a site within China restricted from the Chinese populace, requests would come from the proxy server that could be at an IP address outside China. Some options designed specifically to defeat China's censors are Freegate and Ultrasurf. It's important to pick a reliable open proxy.

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Browser tools

Add-ons for browsers can make the use of proxies or networks of proxies simpler by making rule setting less complicated. Examples are Gladder and Torbutton for Firefox. They are simple ways to employ proxies as explained in the previous slide.

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Onion routing

All traffic is encrypted in multiple layers of encryption to protect its content, then routed through a series of designated onion routers. Each one peels away a layer of encryption to unveil instructions for routing to the next hop until the message is sent to its destination via the final router at the core of the onion. Developed by the US Navy, the best known example of onion routing is Tor (The Onion Router).

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Psiphon

This is a web proxy network developed at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab that proxies encrypted messages through Psiphon proxies called circumventors. These devices are owned by volunteer participants in Psiphon. This raises security issues because the administrator of one of these proxy nodes could compromise traffic, but the theory behind Psiphon is that the user and the administrator of a node have a trust relationship.

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