Situation Report for Circumvention Services

Written and curated by Captain Thermobaric
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Synopsis

10/15/2023: Favorite items in the media:

Chinese Programmer Severely Fined for Using VPNs.

Tanzanian Government fights against privacy tools, gonna lose.

05/30/2023: Favorite items in the media: Amid chaos, Pakistan shut down the internet to little effect, written by Javeria Khalid. Also, Linus Sebastian (Tech Tips / Techquickie Channels) produced a good work about sneakernets and alternate hard wired nets in Cuba and North Korea, supporting a Secret, Illegal Internet. Not Tor or I2P, but people actually walking portable media and running cables across their neighborhoods.

05/09/2023: Some nice quality free VPNs are expanding their services, appearing to be commited to long term operations. See the status of services list. I feel more and more confident in the observation that censoring countries do not have total control over their internets (splinternets). Tor and I2P are more and more resistant to being blocked, thanks to increasing numbers of relays and effective pluggable transports.

11/09/2022: The censoring countries are throttling internet connectivity in accordance with events that are considered "sensitive." It is actually the usual topics: the pandemic, protests, military tensions, and leadership changes.

Hurray! Hurray! The Free VPN Server List is operating again, better than ever. The underlying code has been refactored. It is lean and fast. You can get up to 50 VPN Gate OpenVPN configs and data for several L2TP/IPSec servers, updated 4 times per day. Enjoy!

05/01/2022: Around the same time Russia expanded its efforts to take territory from Ukraine, VPNs in Russia and its allies came under more pressure. Without protocol obfuscation, fewer server IPs work among established providers; ad-hoc VPNs work for a day or two, then are blocked. SSH tunneling continues to work. I found some forum reports that high traffic SSH tunnels are getting blocked in China. It seems that the GFW is throttling cross-border connections too. USE YOUR OWN SERVER AND CHANGE THE IP AS NECESSARY.

11/05/2021: Everything said in March still applies today. To keep connectivity, change the server IPs regularly. If you stay on one address, it gets blocked. SSH tunneling is still very effective in restricted environments.

03/30/2021: The trend of fewer and fewer working circumvention methods continues. SSH tunneling works. Wireguard is being blocked with consistent effect in China. Psiphon works, but users must be nimble and regularly try different servers to find one which works. It appears that international connections are being throttled more than before the NPC meeting. DNS over TLS and DNS over HTTPS seem to be Intermittently blocked, with odd errors happening. Since the PRC internet restrictions are obviously tighter, there is a possibility that THE PRC IS ABOUT TO DO SOMETHING SUBSTANTIAL. FIGURE OUT WTF YOU ARE GOING TO DO IN RESPONSE: STAND UP OR BEND OVER. WHAT ARE YOU MADE OF?

10/30/2020: Fewer VPNs and other circumvention methods seem to be effective against the top censoring regimes. It also seems that surveillance is ticking up against network users who succesfully break free with tools such as Tor, Shadowsocks, and conventional VPNs. Wireguard works, but it is possible to detect its use and may be blocked in the future.

Prepare for a near future in which ANY encrypted networking is suspect, and tools like Tor raising the most suspicion. You might not get a knock at the door, or questioned, but the eyes will be on you for using anything crypto stronger than https. I suggest you switch to a security model in which YOU HAVE YOUR OWN SERVER connecting to the internet through a separate VPN or through Tor. Connect from your personal devices to your server through a benign protocol such as SSH or shadowsocks. No joke: the censorship and surveillance game is escalating in late 2020. Expect the trend to continue in 2021.

More information on network interference is available from Open Observatory of Network Interference and Netblocks.




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