Thwarting Web Censorship with Untrusted Messenger Discovery

Nick Feamster, Magdalena Balazinska, Winston Wang, Hari Balakrishnan, David Karger
Privacy Enhancing Technologies 2003, Dresden, Germany, March 2003

All existing anti-censorship systems for the Web rely on proxies to grant clients access to censored information. Therefore, they face the proxy discovery problem: how can clients discover the proxies without having the censor discover and block these proxies? To avoid widespread discovery and blocking, proxies must not be widely published and should be discovered in-band. In this paper, we present a proxy discovery mechanism called keyspace hopping that meets this goal. Similar in spirit to frequency hopping in wireless networks, keyspace hopping ensures that each client discovers only a small fraction of the total number of proxies. However, requiring clients to independently discover proxies from a large set makes it practically impossible to verify the trustworthiness of every proxy and creates the possibility of having untrusted proxies. To address this, we propose separating the proxy into two distinct components---the messenger, which the client discovers using keyspace hopping and which simply acts as a gateway to the Internet; and the portal, whose identity is widely-published and whose responsibility it is to interpret and serve the client's requests for censored content. We show how this separation, as well as in-band proxy discovery, can be applied to a variety of anti-censorship systems.

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Bibtex Entry:

@inproceedings{feamster2003thwarting,
   author =       "Nick Feamster and Magdalena Balazinska and Winston Wang and Hari Balakrishnan and David Karger",
   title =        "{Thwarting Web Censorship with Untrusted Messenger Discovery}",
   booktitle =    {Privacy Enhancing Technologies 2003},
   year =         {2003},
   month =        {March},
   address =      {Dresden, Germany}
}