Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Circumventing Censorship with BitTorrent and Anonymizer Proxies

After P2P clients like Limewire using the Gnutella network among others have been shut down the emphasis seems increasingly on BitTorrent and the sites hosting torrents. Where sites are not shut down like Isohunt recently they get blocked from access by the major ISP's. A futile exercise as sites are simply resurrected, renamed or proxied using a different domain extension and it proves impossible to shut them all down. Go to http://torrentproxies.com/.

Several of the better clients like qBittorrent have a search engine built in that can even be extended via plugins to use sites other than the preset ones. For a primer on using search in qBittorrent look here, some tips are also applicable to torrenting in general. This traffic is not blocked by the major provider this household is using, as opposed to looking for the torrent file with a web browser to download from the website that is blocked. My favorite KickassTorrents.com now has successfully set up plenty of aliases with kickass.to, kickasstorrents.eu, kat.ph, and proxykat.me. More on this on Softpedia.

Another way if your country or your provider is blocking the sites you peruse is to use Tor and appear to be from a different location. All your traffic is proxied and anonymized and using it with a client setting that requires encryption should make you relatively safe from detection if you're concerned about getting hit with a hefty bill from a frivolous law suit one day. Any searches you do using Tor would also evade your providers DNS so previously blocked sites will be accessible again unless they've been taken down completely. Check an earlier article how to set up Tor with a particular country set or random location as is the default. Be aware of fakes, like episodes of TV shows that have not aired yet or when the file size seems implausible and does not correspond with what you're looking for, and anything that is distributed in rar files or requires a password to open. Do not use Tor Bundle on Windows for well known reasons, if you want to be really sure construct your own setup on a different operating system or use the latest version of Tails.

If you don't want to or cannot set up Tor to evade censorship and are unable to use a VPN or other anonymizer proxy (because they are usually slow, have shut down or require a paid subscription), there are several plugins for the major browsers that do the trick. ZenMate for Chromium/Google-Chrome and AnonymoX for Firefox have done the trick for me so far. Both allow to change to various locations so you appear to be from somewhere else and I haven't seen any more messages like the one below from my ISP. Both are working well when using any of these three whatmyip services for verification and they change IP address on a regular basis. I have yet to try out the PirateBrowser.


Like in my last post about encrypted email, a thought towards the end. Do we know who's behind those services and extensions? The Tor network is pretty trustworthy in their motives and as an entity but apparently government agencies have been monitoring Tor exit nodes for years. Do we know who's behind ZenMate and AnonymoX, what their motives are and what their business model is? Where is the funding coming from? In the end it is up to you to decide whether you want to trust them. Somebody may be collecting data about you between your PC and the proxy server when you think you're anonymous and it may be government agencies trying to lull us into a false sense of security. As last time, don't do anything online you wouldn't be doing otherwise.

Please leave constructive comments below. A discussion as to the merits and weaknesses of the different approaches would be nice.

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