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Geneva Versus the Great Firewall of China (and Others)

Daniel Chepenko has written an excellent analysis and evaluation of the current status of the Great Firewall of China. Pay attention and read it at least a couple of times until you understand how serious is the matter of censorship and the vast effort put to task attacking free expression expression. Just as with expensive weapons in a war, opponents of censorship must make it their goal to destroy those dangerous tools.

Encrypted Server Name Indication (ESNI) is a new feature of the world wide web, adding to the content encryption of https connections. ESNI makes sure that your secure web connections encrypt not only the content but also the server name indication. It stops most attackers from knowing what server you are connecting to. Some state level attackers (Iran, China, and their allies) may devote great time and expense to attempt recovery of the SNI information. It is very time consuming and expensive, but not impossible - probably not useful against most people on the internet. The GFW is now able to detect and block connections with ESNI, temporarily breaking the connection but continuing to watch for the presence of ESNI. GFW Report carries an in depth paper on how ESNI works and the nature of attacks on connections with ESNI. Interestingly, there are ways to evade ESNI blocking. Read the report and grasp the sophistication and difficulty of this battle for free expression. Unless you want to live with a muzzled life, be prepared to meet their effective censorship with effective circumvention.

Artificial intelligence is finding weaknesses in state-level censorship of the internet. At the University of Maryland, a new acronym for the methods was coined: GENEVA - GENetic EVAsion. GENEVA was shown to be effective against censorship systems in China, India, and Kazakhstan. As an aside, ask yourself why - WHY are there commercial VPNs in theose countries holding out their services as unblocking websites. Okay, the VPNs keep local attackers out, but I would be suspicious of backdoors of complicity by the services in government access to their databases.

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There have been recent informative videos going up on YouTube about encryption and censorship circumvention:

A look at the current censorship and security situation, especially relating to GENEVA Lead or be led. Govern or be governed. Eat or be eaten.

A Fireside chat regarding efforts by the USA to suppress free speech and weaken encryption. Do not accept ghost observers or backdoors!

Attacks by governments on free speech and privacy are not diminishing in scope or sophistication. Good news is that circumvention technology is evolving to meet the challenges. The reality is that neither side is going to vanish, and someone has to win the struggle. The choice is to evade until the authoritarians win or to turn on them and make your goal the removal of them from governance. I do not propose any specific course of action, except to remand all readers here that they cannot evade forever.


Tags:GFW, Censorship, Artificial Intelligence, Iran Censorship, Kazakh Censorship, China Censorship
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