Software Developed To Defeat Online Censors


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New piece of software called Telex was developed by American computer scientists. Its purpose is to hide information from censored sites inside traffic from safe websites.

In beta mode, the software managed to defeat Chinese Internet filters. The development of Telex started over a year ago. Since then, four team members, including Dr. Alex Halderman, did an amazing effort to make the software work against various anti-filtering technologies.

The matter is that major part of the existing anti-filtering systems connect to some server or network located outside the country of user’s residence. The key to their success is to promote such servers and networks just enough so that filters can’t be aware of them. Nevertheless, Telex turned such approach against itself. Instead of having a server outside the network, the program is doing it in the core of the network. Actually, Telex benefits from the small number of net-censoring nations.

It works the following way. When an Internet a user gets stuck at a banned site, the software puts a tag or marker on the stream of information being sent to a safe destination. Later, the routing points outside the user’s country recognize that the stream in question has been marked and automatically re-direct a request to a banned website. Ultimately, the stream bounces back to the Internet user just as if it were information from a safe website.

As for the safety, the information is locked through a cryptograpic key which can be used only by the owner to help the software be safe from interference. One is unable to see the marker unless they have a corresponding private key. The spotting routers of the program unlock the banned material by using the above mentioned cryptographic key. When the software is deployed, Internet service providers normally add marker-spotting software to their routers.

Telex has been tested for a few months to prove that it is able to overcome even sophisticated censoring systems. It has also been tried from within China and thus far it has had no problems with the filtering there, enabling users to view banned material like HD YouTube videos and websites tagged “subversive”.

An official launch of the software is scheduled to take place at the oncoming Usenix security conference. Hopefully, the conference in question will become a promoter to people working on anti-filtering tools.