This declaration has not in any way baffled most Iranians, as the nation has long been plagued with censorship issues since the dawn of history. Whatever the government deems fit to block and suspend, they will do in the name of security and public interest. To date, they have placed censorship to millions of web blogs, websites, and discussion boards. They suspect to be publishing unsuitable content, especially those that proved subversive and poses a threat to their faith and or governance as a whole.
Iran Internet filtering
Iran public Internet network filters many popular websites like Facebook or Youtube, that can only be unlocked only by using VPN services or proxies. The primary function of such services is to allow users to connect to a remote server (not blocked by filters) that act as a middleman between the blocked servers (where Facebook or Youtube are hosted) and the computer inside the filtered network.
The number of those using this kind of unblocking solutions is rising, according to Iranian state-run news website, ISNA. There may be up to 30% of the Iranian Internet users that use VPNs or proxies.
The government is tracking and monitoring
According to Iran’s Minister of Communication, Reza Taghipour, the government has the means of tracking and monitoring those who use such technology and, as it is considered cybercrime, to arrest them.
What VPN to use?
It is not much of a surprise. It is well known that the traffic through proxies can be easily monitored and also there was recent evidence that PPTP VPN protocol was cracked. The good news is that other VPN protocols are still secured and (almost) impossible to be decrypted no matter the tracking or monitoring technology. Such VPN protocols like StealthVPN, SSTP, OpenVPN, or SoftEther are highly available from different VPN providers on the market.
To sum up, unblocking restricted websites in Iran may be a highly risky activity these days unless you use the proper tools and encryption applications.
For the people of Iran to circumvent these restrictions, they have turned to the aid of VPNs. While others seek the help of other filter circumventing client or program to bypass this censorship. Nonetheless, with the recent promulgation of using VPN and other ant-filtering programs as criminal, most Iranians are left with no apparent choice at all!
But Iran has still a glimpse of hope! The answer clearly for all censorship is – SSH VPN.
What is SSH VPN? How can it help Iranians amidst the censorship prevalent in their country today?
SSH Tunnel otherwise known as Secure Shell affords end-users a secure communication for the transfer of any digital data via a non-secure network such as the Internet.
Even though, VPN and SSH accomplish the same amount of work, i.e., secure data given between various points. Truth be told, there are glaring distinctions as to the way they function, like the following:
- VPN functions effectively as it transport layer whereas SSH works at the application layer. The former encrypts all communication made on the endpoints of each network regardless if prompted or not. The latter on the other hand functions on a specified port and will provide encryption only from the host PC to the other PC it is required to SSH’d.
- SSH is perfect to log into a remote or cloud system while VPN is utilized to connect various networks.
- As VPN encrypts data and entire traffic even if not prompted, it can throttle connectivity. SSH, on the contrary, encrypts only the chosen application for an agreed period.
- With regards to TCP/IP stacking, VPN works at the lower level or the network level and thus can be utilized to protect the whole network traffic. SSH is diverse as it works at the port level, and so is perfect to secure specific connections.
- Much like VPN SSH is a network type that is hard to be identified by any third party.
Given the previous considerations, it seems viable to utilize SSH and access restricted websites while in Iran. To use SSH to circumvent filters and connect, you need to choose the best Iran VPN service provider out there. Currently, there are very few important services that provide SSH tunneling online. Here are the services that I recommend for Iranian users: NordVPN and TorVPN.
How to purchase SSH services online?
In light of the recent promulgation, we suggest end-users seek the help of their pals from the USA or UK to pay for the SSH service subscription. Otherwise, they may be traced as the one paying for said prohibited services. And even so, Iran VPN service providers have now ceased from accepting subscriptions from Iran due to said decree.
Lastly, it is not far-fetched that VPN will soon be available in Iran. But meantime that it is forbidden, best to turn to quality SSH service providers on the web today.
Iran Proxy – Proxies for Iranian Users to Unblock Facebook and Twitter
A more affordable alternative to VPNs is the proxies. Recently, I found a list of open proxies that can be used by Iranian Internet users. These are set up by those that fight against censorship, and there are available only for users connecting from Iran.
Iran proxy – List of proxies
Here is the list of proxies:
220.127.116.11:3128 (YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter only)
The list may be out of date, and many proxies may be already blocked. The owner of the site that published the proxies can offer you the latest proxies available. You should contact him on this email address me[at]austinheap.com.
After you get the proxies, you’ll have to set up your browser to use them. Here are some useful tutorials:
- Firefox 3.0: How To Manually Hide Your IP
- How To Manually Hide Your IP Using Internet Explorer 8
- How To Manually Mask Your IP Using Safari 3.x
- How to configure Opera 10 to use a proxy
- How To Hide Your IP While Browsing Using Google Chrome
Internet users in Iran use Tor to circumvent censorship
You are probably up to date with the political situation in Iran: after the presidential election held on 12 June 2009, protests were held against alleged electoral fraud and in support of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. In response to these, Iranian authorities have closed universities in Tehran, blocked web sites, blocked cell phone transmissions and text messaging. More on the political situation in Iran you can find here. Learn about the Iran censorship.
The team that administrates Tor, the well know anonymity network, has published some stats that show an increased activity by the Iranian users in the days after the contested election.
The first graph shows the number of requests from new Tor clients coming from Iranian IP addresses. You can see an increase from an average of about 150+ per day to almost 1000 per day.
The second graph estimates the total number of Tor users in Iran.
Do you want to help Iranians keep their privacy? Run a TOR node!
Now, you can do something for these users that try to keep their privacy and express freely. Here is an initiative of Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org):
Tor’s design relies on a robust network of “volunteer computers” (a.k.a. relays) to pass messages back and forth. This means that the speed and quality of a Tor users’ browsing experience relies extensively on the number of volunteer computers there are to pass messages along. This is where volunteers can make a difference — setting up additional relays improves access for dissident Iranians and other users of the Tor network. The more people who help out, the better and more quickly the network runs. If you’re interested in helping out, find and follow instructions for configuring a Tor relay on the Tor website.
Those looking to help fight censorship should also consider providing a Tor bridge. Bridges come into play when an ISP decides to try blocking users’ access to the Tor network. (For now, there seems to only be anecdotal evidence of Iran attempting to block the use of Tor. However, Iran has recntly been practicing reactive and centralized blocking, which makes any effective block of Tor far more likely.) The Tor bridge configuration differs from a relay in that your computer does not appear in the public Tor network. Instead, users looking for access to the Internet through Tor can receive your Tor routing information through more private channels, then configure their Tor client to transmit requests through your computer. By not appearing in the public Tor network, your Tor routing information is less likely to end up on an ISP filter and can provide help for a longer period of time — but recognize that the network needs both relays and bridges
Whatever you think of the Iranian political situation, you probably agree that Iranian citizens should be allowed to communicate freely. Now, you can do something to help them!