Boing Boing's Guide to Defeating Censorware


(see story here)

"The Internet interprets censorship as damage
and routes around it." -- John Gilmore

If your employer or corrupt, undemocratic, dictator-based government uses a filtering service such as Secure Computing's SmartFilter to block access to -- or anything else online -- you can try the following workarounds:

  • Distributed BoingBoing mirrors everything on at random IP addresses to foil filters.

  • Read "Technical Ways to Get Around Censorship," a helpful primer from Reporters Without Borders: Link.

  • Google can act as a lightweight, proxy-like tool for accessing forbidden sites -- but don't rely on this method for anonymity. Link.
  • The popular RSS reader Bloglines can offer lightweight help in some cases, too. Boing Boing reader Tom says, "I work for a BIG financial services company that apparently uses (not-so-) SmartFilter because BoingBoing has recently become a forbidden site. I use Bloglines as my RSS reader so that I can access the blogs I read from work and home. It turns out that Bloglines is acting as sort of a proxy, since it connects to your RSS feed and not my computer, I'm still able to read BoingBoing at work. Since you publish the full text of your entries in your feeds I'm not missing much, though any photos linked directly from your site are edited out."

  • A group called Peacefire created proxy software called Circumventor to bypass censorware. Install this software on your home computer and allow others to use your proxy to access the web, or use your proxy from work or school to access any web site. (Thanks, Sean!)

  • Bennett Haselton of Peacefire, who developed Circumventor, says:

    "For 90% of users in the USA affected by SmartFilter, there is no reason to use anything but Circumventor. The reasons are:

    1) It's simple to set up. Just run three simple point-and-click installers. We even have a wizard that comes up automatically to help you set up port forwarding on your router if you've never done it before.
    2) You are not required to install anything on the "censored" computer, you just bring a URL in with you to work.
    3) It works even if the censored network blocks direct connections to IP addresses outside the network (which would break some of the other solutions recommended in this guide).

    "If you're in Iran, Saudi Arabia, or some other country censored by SmartFilter, then your best choices are (a) TOR, or (b) use a Circumventor if you can get someone in a "free country" to set one up for you. (The reason Circumventor works for 90% of workplace-filtered users in the U.S. is that they can almost always set it up on their home computer and take the URL in with them. But not everybody in a censored *country* has someone outside who can help them.)

    "Circumventor is the *only* method (as far as I know) that will work reliably on computers where people are blocked from installing their own software (or even changing proxy settings) -- because after you install it on your home computer, all it gives you is a URL, and you can take that URL in with you to work and use it whenever you want. Many people in workplaces and libraries are blocked from installing software on their computers. Or even if they could, it would be a definite 'smoking gun' if anyone noticed that the software had been installed; whereas our software leaves fewer traces. (There is a 'smoking gun' in the form of a URL in the URL history, but that's much less likely to be noticed than a TOR icon on your desktop!)"

  • Rich says, "This cgi-bin script is the guts inside Peacefire's Circumventor - a Perl CGI script that proxys for you. While Circumventor is a full script to get it working under Win2k/XP, the cgiproxy script alone lets you get it going on Linux and (presumeably) Mac OSX. And the best part - the setup is dirt simple - if you're already running a web server, pretty much just drop it in your cgi-bin directory.
  • Access the TOR network. The more people who run Tor servers, the faster and more anonymous the network becomes.

  • Using an SSH tunnel, VPN, or anonymous overlay to an unfiltered network is widely considered to be the best way to protect yourself while accessing "prohibited" content. (Thanks, chris)

  • Chris says, "There is a new option in OpenSSH that allows for ethernet level tunneling using the kernel's TUN interface. This is probably the most powerful solution if you have access to a friendly system to use as the end point of the tunnel. Manual for ssh, see -w option: Link. For ssh_config, see Tunnel option: Link. And one more way to use SSH as a tunnel is to with SOCKS: Link. osx example script: Link.
  • Breaking out of a Proxy Jail. Link (Thanks, Mutz!)

  • Try Daveproxy, and other services listed on the proxy list at together with AntiFirewall (a small app that tests proxies). (Thanks, Joao Barata!)

  • Try Java Anonymous Proxy. JAP uses the TOR network, and installation is pretty easy for non-nerds. (Thanks, Jonas)

  • The Bitty browser, while not initially designed as an anonymizing tool, has helped some of our readers work around corporate internet filters. (Thanks, Scott Matthews!)

  • Some of our readers have found the Coral Content Distribution Network (CCDN) helpful for evading internet blocks. Just add "" at the end of -- for example, instead of typing to your browser's address line, instead type If port 8090 is blocked for some reason, the Coral Cache also functions on port 8080. Or, try adding to the URL if the Coral Cache is blocked, for an alternate cache network. (Thanks, BeHE, Tian and Michael!)

  • Check out the regularly updated list of public proxy servers at

  • For BoingBoing readers in the UAE or Qatar, or other countries where BoingBoing is blocked, one anonymous reader tells us: "There is an internet via satellite called OPENSKY sold through which goes around these problems. Using VPN with normal dialup, the signal gets sent back from Europe, so, uncensored. Works really well and is cheap!"

  • Andy Armstrong says, "I've also set up a proxy for boingboing at"

  • Ben says, "You can also set your home computer up for remote access. Windows XP has the components built in. If you run XP at home it will take you about 30 min to set up. You can find instructions here. Once you set up remote access you can use Zone Edit freeware to set up a static IP, even if you are on a cable modem. If you really want to go all out register a website for $5 and have that point to the Zone Edit IP address. I can hit my home computer from anywhere with web access, and have its full functionality, including censor-free web browsing."

  • Marcus Aurelius says, "This is how I dodged Etisalat's (The UAE ISP and telco) proxy-server blacklist. It is only really useful for text-rich sites since it involves using Lynx a text browser."

  • Abdul Aziz says, "It's a pain to know that countries and companies alike are blocking and censoring sites like Boing Boing. I face this at my office everyday. I've mentioned two ways on my site by which you can bypass these proxies and filters safely and securely without breaking any rules or arousing the network admin's suspicions." Link

  • Former Censorware Project chief programmer Seth Finkelstein posts anti-censorware resources here .

  • A tutorial on how to bypass Internet Censorship using proxies, shells, JAP, and the like: Link (Thanks, Seth Finkelstein)

  • Michael sez:
    The Anonymizer company has a contract with the Voice of America to provide anonymous internet access for users in a number of foreign countries, including Iran and China. Here's how an Anonymizer sysadmin describes the Iranian portion of the service: "It's based off of PrivateSurfing [...]. Added features for the Iran proxy is full time SSL, URL encryption, Farsi language support, and we switch the proxy website about once a month (every time the Iranian government blocks us). We perform checks on the service from within Iran to see if our site is actually blocked (yes, it works), and we maintain a database of all known e-mail addresses that we can detect as being located in Iran. Every time we switch the proxy site we send an e-mail informing them of the new free proxy location so the citizens of Iran can find it. The sites are also broadcast via radio and TV into Iran by the VOA. To be honest, we're usually about a day behind the blocks, due mostly to time zone differences."


  • If you're accessing BoingBoing from work, you may be able to ask your system administrator to whitelist That's shorthand for selectively removing the domain from a list of forbidden sites provided by the filtering software vendor. If your employer uses SmartFilter, for example, a sysadmin can selectively allow the domain, while keeping the rest of the entries for the "blocked" category in which BoingBoing is listed. Bribing your network administrator with cartons of Skittles and Red Bull may expedite this option. (Thanks, mcsey!)

If you know of any good ways to defeat censorware, please send us your suggestion.

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