NPR’s All Things Considered recently interviewed Princeton Engineering alumnus Alex Halderman about Telex, a new software he is developing that may help Internet users circumvent censorship in countries like China.

NPR reports that Telex subverts authoritarian governments by “turning the entire Internet into an anti-censorship device.”

Halderman, now an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, explains that Telex has two parts:

“First, there is software that you install on your computer and then there are devices that we call Telex stations that internet service providers outside of the country doing the censorship put on the pipes of the Internet — that is, on the wires that are carrying traffic to websites.

“You in the country might get a copy from a friend who has just passed it to you or you might get it from a website that was temporarily available before government censors found it.

“After the user installs the Telex software, their computer makes a connection to some website that is not banned. It can be any website the user would normally visit that is outside of that country. So that it could be, say, a web page about people’s favorite cats — something completely innocuous, as long as it is hosted in another country. That connection passes through the government censorship since it’s not on the black list.

“But then these devices at ISPs that we call Telex stations recognize that connection as a request for anti-censorship service and secretly divert it to a site that has been blocked that the user wants to access.

“We like to envision this technology as a potential government-level response to Government-level censorship. So if a country that wanted to oppose internet censorship were to provide incentives to its ISPs to deploy Telex, that would allow the system to provide anticensorship service to people all around the world.”

 
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