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[liberationtech] Users flock to Japan student's firewall-busting thesis project - Network World

Yosem Companys companys at
Thu Mar 14 14:27:16 PDT 2013

This story appeared on Network World at

Users flock to Japan student's firewall-busting thesis project
'VPN Gate,' designed by Ph.D. student Daiyuu Nobori to circumvent
government firewalls, has drawn 77,000 users in less than a week

By Jay Alabaster, IDG News Service
March 13, 2013 07:05 AM ET

IDG News Service - If you're not sure about the purpose behind Daiyuu
Nobori's online thesis project, perhaps the large picture of the
collapse of the Berlin Wall will help.

Nobori created VPN Gate to help individuals in countries that restrict
Internet use to beat government firewalls. The service encourages
members of the public to set up VPN (virtual private network) servers
and offer free connections to individual users, aiming to make the
technology more accessible.

"Today's VPN software is very complex. They are not easy to use. Some
VPN services around the world are expensive for people in other parts
of the world," Nobori said in an interview with IDG News Service.

His service maintains a public, real-time list of freely available VPN
servers for users to choose from. It also offers downloadable server
software to run the VPN, and a client that greatly simplifies the
process of finding and connecting to one of the free servers, for the
less technically inclined.

The 28 year-old doctoral student at Tsukuba University, about 30 miles
northeast of Tokyo, wasn't sure what the reaction would be when he
launched last Friday. He did little to advertise it outside of the
home page and a few mentions on tech forums.

Five days later, the service has drawn 77,000 users and served nearly
4 terabytes of data.

"There are a lot of users from around the world, so I'm very happy,"
he said, but "the large amount of data transfer charges are a problem.
This is coming from my credit card."

Nobori had originally planned to host the service on his university's
servers, but they have been down recently so he switched it to the
Windows Azure cloud platform. He has spent about US$9,000 keeping it
up so far, and will move it back to the university as soon as he can.
He also operates his own VPN company, income from which has helped
with expenses.

The service is based on "SoftEther," open-source VPN software he
built. He says most of it will be released as open source in the next
few months. He said he plans to keep certain small portions related to
custom protocols private, for security reasons.

He was motivated to create VPN Gate when he learned about the
firewalls imposed on people living in Middle East countries such as
Egypt and Libya. The Web page is currently offered in English, Chinese
and his native Japanese, but he says that is more based on the number
of language speakers worldwide than any political feelings about a
particular country.

"I'm an engineer, I don't have any interest in politics," he said. "If
people somewhere want to study and can't use services like Wikipedia
or Google, this is a big problem. Wikipedia has political articles,
but also articles about science and other topics."

The service's public access logs show that the vast majority of
connections are coming from China. He had friends at his university
help him translate his materials into Chinese, but they asked that he
not credit them by name for fear of repercussions.

Nobori said that while few people in countries like Japan feel
threatened by government firewalls, he remains concerned. In Japan,
police have publicized a plan to block access to a genre of sites that
give advice on how to kill yourself, to cut down on the country's high
suicide rate.

"It is probably acceptable to block the suicide sites, but you don't
know what happens next. There is always a chance it will expand."

The IDG News Service is a Network World affiliate.

All contents copyright 1995-2013 Network World, Inc.

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