The History Of Haystack... And Why Online Censorship Will Remain Difficult

from the there-are-always-holes-in-the-wall dept

Over the years, it's been fascinating to watch the battle over internet censorship, monitors and filters, along with the equally rapid attempts to get around all of those things via technology. Many folks are familiar with anonymous proxies, like Tor, which do help provide anonymity, but can still be blocked once the censor is aware of the tor node. If you follow this space, you're probably already aware of Haystack, which is, in some ways, a step up from Tor and has been getting more and more attention lately. Newsweek actually has a pretty good article on the history of how Haystack came about, involving a 20-something programmer who had little interest in political activism or Iran, until he started seeing the various protests and responses after the Iranian election. Something clicked, and helped along by a "disaffected Iranian official" who sent him the details of how Iran's internet filter worked, and led to Haystack, which hides traffic inside what looks like legitimate traffic (and, in the case of Iran, is specifically designed to hide in traffic that is popular in Iran).

What struck me most about the story is just how improbable a story it is if you look at it in a vacuum. We're talking about a 25-year-old guy, with little interest in Iran or activism, suddenly scratching an itch -- and within a week he had an Iranian gov't official leaking him information that was useful in building a system that could get around the Iranian internet censorship filter. That's impressive, no matter how you look at it. It also highlights why it's always going to be difficult to successfully censor the internet on a wider scale. Someone, perhaps from a totally unexpected place, is going to figure out how to get around it.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Sep 2010 @ 7:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Speed of innovation

    and, of course, to make it more decentralized and individualized requires the FCC to ease up on restrictions that prevent such a thing.

    It's not a matter of can making it wireless be done. It's already being done, the telcos already do it. It's a matter of, who is allowed to do it, should the telcos have the exclusive right to access the frequencies required to do it so that they can be the only ones doing it, or should everyone have more rights so that everyone can more or less run the network in a more decentralized manner. I say the later. I don't mind the telcos existing alongside the decentralized network, but the govt should give us the freedom to run a own decentralized, more independent, network instead of putting in place so many restrictions that prevent such a thing.

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