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[liberationtech] Censorship circumvention and ticket inspectors

Walid AL-SAQAF wsaqaf at
Sat Jun 22 08:56:55 PDT 2013

Thanks Michael for what I preceive as an endorsement of this analogy. I
would love to know your students' reactions. Feel free to point any issues
that could be problematic with thid annalogy or how it could improve.

I look forward to others to comments as well.


On Jun 22, 2013 2:54 PM, "Michael Dahan" <dahanm at> wrote:

> Walid,
> I like this a lot and would like to use as an example for my students.
> Perhaps using the Gaza Strip as a more concrete metaphor for some of the
> ideas would be helpful... Certainly re SSH tunnels.
> Michael
> On Jun 22, 2013 3:41 PM, "Walid AL-SAQAF" <admin at> wrote:
>> Dear friends,
>> I have been asked to explain how four mechanisms of censorship
>> circumvention work using some sort of analogy that any layman could
>> understand. I proposed the analogy of surfing the Internet as traveling and
>> firewalls as ticket inspectors checking where you are going as described
>> below.
>> So I would love to get from those of you who are familiar with censorship
>> circumvention methods some feedback on how useful/accurate such an analogy
>> is and ways to fix it. If you have another suggestion, I would love to know
>> it because I could use it instead if it made more sense. This is all under
>> development so changes can be accommodated.
>> Note that I want the analogy to make it easier to  understand each
>> circumvention method without implying something that is inaccurate when it
>> comes to the limitations and abilities of each method.
>> ==============
>> Technology today offers a variety of Internet censorship circumvention
>> solutions to bypass those ISP-imposed firewalls.
>> To illustrate some ways of how Internet censorship could be circumvented.
>> I don’t know about you, but I truly love to travel. So let me present this
>> simple analogy of travel.
>> *Using a particular website = Visiting to a particular town*
>> *
>> *
>> *Protocol used (http, ftp, ssh, pop3, ....) = mode of transportation
>> (taxi, bus, minibus, train, plane,..)
>> *
>> *Censorship authority (firewall) = Ticket inspector
>> *
>> And let us imagine that surfing the web, having a video chat or playing
>> online games, etc. are all forms of travel. The different applications are
>> like different transportation (e.g., train, car, sea, air).
>> As a user in a country where there’s Internet censorship, you’re like a
>> tourist hoping to buy a ticket to a particular destination as you can’t get
>> out without having your ticket checked by the ticket inspector, who serves
>> as the gatekeeper. Heavy censorship means very few destinations could be
>> reached because tickets to forbidden destinations won’t be permitted by the
>> ticket inspector.
>> Now there are several methods of getting to a town that is normally off
>> access.
>> *Web-proxies: *
>> If you get access to a web-based proxy, then it’s like having a ticket to
>> an allowed destination that is not on the blocked list. However, that very
>> destination is merely a transfer point where you could go to one more
>> destination without any additional tickets. So while the ticket inspector
>> thought you were going to a particular town, that town was basically used
>> as a transfer point to another town that you were originally supposed not
>> to go to. However, the ultimate destination could only be reached based on
>> the conditions of the proxy station, which may not be convenient (too slow
>> transportation, no air conditioning, etc., planting surveillance devices).
>> But because the ticket inspector doesn't know, he let you go any way.
>> Remember that this setting allowed you to only get one single ride. To go
>> to another destination, you need to come back and take another ride.
>> Surveillance is often possible to limit if the web-based proxy allows the
>> use of SSL (adding an ‘s’ to http on the address bar).
>> *HTTP/SOCKS proxies: *
>> Through the HTTP/SOCKS proxy method, you’d get a pass that would allow
>> you to go to one allowed destination and then from there, you would have
>> free transfers on all the trains of the world. However, when you visit
>> insecure websites (that don't start with https) with this method, you’ll
>> sacrifice your privacy because you'll need to install a spyware device on
>> your leg to track your movement for the ticket inspector to know where you
>> are going. So when you come after a long vacation, authorities would know
>> what you have been up to and what you bought and where you've been all this
>> time . You might be in big trouble if you did naughty stuff while you were
>> on the different trips.
>> *SSH Tunnels:*
>> Through a locally opened SSH tunnel, you would get a pass to an allowed
>> destination that would grant you free access to not only trains, but also
>> buses all over the world. At the same time, you also won’t be tracked. So
>> you are really protecting yourself from being spied on while enjoying
>> visiting almost all the destinations you wanted except the ones that can’t
>> be reached by land.
>> *VPNs: *
>> And through VPNs, you show a pass to an allowed destination, from where
>> you will be free to use all methods of transportation including land, sea
>> and air. Furthermore, your movement or baggage would not be inspected. It’s
>> the ultimate method that would allow you to be totally free in seeing the
>> world with no restrictions.
>> ==============
>> Your feedback is welcome.
>> Sincerely,
>> Walid
>> -----------------
>> Walid Al-Saqaf
>> Founder & Administrator
>> alkasir for mapping and circumventing cyber censorship
>> PGP:
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