FACTreview: How to Unblock EVERYTHING on the Internet!
March 28, 2012
New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 2012, 200 pp ISBN-10: 9325956616 ISBN-13: 978-9325956612 $9.99 USD paperback, $8.99 USD Kindle edition
“Ethical hacker” Ankit Fadia’s book is shocking, entertaining, educational and inspiring all at the same time! That’s sort of an in-joke, Ankit. The rest of you will have to buy to book to find out why. He dedicates it “To A Free and Unblocked Internet”.
Seriously, even I learned a lot and I’ve been circumventing government Internet censorship in Thailand and teaching others how to for the past six years.
When I met the author, Ankit Fadia, in Bangkok a few weeks ago, I asked him the only important question: “Everything? Surely that’s exaggeration.” He told me, of course it was, and that his book was mostly intended to help users circumvent school and workplace blocking.
After studying How to Unblock EVERYTHING on the Internet!, I just can’t agree with him. Ankit pretty much covers everything I can think of. His Chapter 9 on multiple formats for a webpage’s IP address is nothing short of brilliant. Turns out there are far more formats to which that URL can be converted than government could employ people to block (see below). For my work against censorship, this is the most important chapter in How to Unblock EVERYTHING on the Internet!
So let’s get started with a list of chapter titles and some in-depth description and techniques from each one. We seriously think Ankit deserves to sell a ton of books but we’re going to give away a lot of his methods here. (Information wants to be free!)
“The content that is being accessed may be illegal and blocked in the country where the user is located, but may be completely legal, unblocked or unregulated in the country where the website is hosted.”
“We are tired of these restrictions. We are demanding back our freedom. No, we are taking our freedom back with our own hands.”
2) How to block content on the Internet
“Domain name filtering…IP address filtering…Proxy filtering…URL filtering…Port blocking…Advance packet filtering…Bandwidth throttling and traffic shaping…Keyword filtering…Complete disconnection”
3) Cached pages
Search for your topic. Use your search engine’s “cached page” or “view by proxy” option.
4) Archived pages
Search for and view old archived pages using the Wayback Machine at http://www.archive.org.
5) Translation tools
6) Format conversion websites
7) Webpages by email
Sending a URL to this website will mail the page to you. WWW2Mail: http://www.web2mail.com/
8) URL shortening websites
Compress that address to avoid DNS blocking. Bit.ly: http://Bit.ly. Goo.gl: http://goo.gl. Tiny URL: http://tiny.cc/. Ow.ly: http://ow.ly/url/shorten-url. Short URL: http://www.shorturl.com/. It’s good: http://is.gd/. Search “shorten url” for dozens more.
9) Website aliases [my favourite chapter!]
“Ping IP addresses for URLs from your computer. And/ try http://www.ping.eu. Use the IP rather than the URL.
An IP address is a 32-bit number written in dotted-decimal notation. As this number has many different mathematical equivalents, the dotted-decimal IP can be converted many ways.
1) Try typing the IP address with no dots. IP to Dec http://www.allredroster.com/iptodec.htm will also do the conversion.
2) IP addresses may also be expressed in Octal format. An explanation of this is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octal. You are converting each set of decimal numbers separated by dots. A search for “Convert Octal to decimal” results in online tools to do just that: http://www.statman.info/conversions/octal.html, http://www.convertworld.com/en/numerals/Octal.html, http://www.translatorscafe.com/cafe/units-converter/numbers/calculator/octal-to-decimal/ and even a YouTube how-to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzI2ofqpFYw. Note that in octal format, you must precede every octal number with a zero to tell your browser the number is in octal format.
3) Decimal format IP addresses may also be convert to hexadecimal format. As with octal conversions, you are converting each set of decimal numbers separated by dots. A search for “Convert to hexadecimal results in these online converters: www.statman.info/conversions/hexadecimal.html and http://www.mathsisfun.com/binary-decimal-hexadecimal-converter.html. Theory here: http://www.permadi.com/tutorial/numDecToHex/. As with octal numbers, each set must be preceded by a zero to direct your browser.
4) One may also combine these methods into a single hybrid IP address.
Dotted Decimal Format: http://22.214.171.124
No dots Decimal Format: HTTP://1249766480
Octal Format: http://0112.0175.0354.0120
Hexadecimal Format: http://0x4A.0x7D.0xEC.0x50
It is also possible to use number sets from each method to form one IP address!”
We dare any government censor to block all of those! Good luck!
Just playing with the URL may bring success:
10) Special URLS
Try unblocking by typing string URLs as in http://www.www.www.www.www.www.facebook.com. This may result in an SSL certificate security message which may be ignored so you may proceed to your page.
Try typing a URL like this: http://firstname.lastname@example.org. Everything before the @ symbol is ignored and the WWW address may load normally.
11) RSS aggregators
Often a site may be blocked but its RSS feed will deliver the site’s content to you by subscription. Google Reader http://reader.google.com is one of the more widely used newsreaders and various blocked websites may be searched here. However, Web browsers, email applications and iTunes can all accomplish the same thing.
12) Mobile websites
These are intended to be used on mobile phones and tablets. But there’s no reason you can’t use them on your computer.
YouTube – http://m.youtube.com/
Facebook – http://m.facebook.com/
Google – http://www.google.com/mobile/
Twitter – http://m.twitter.com
CricInfo – http://m.espncricinfo.com/
13) HTTP Secure
Often, unblocking a webpage may be as simple as substituting HTTPS which forwards to Port 443 rather than HTTP.
This chapter also outlines changing your ports to thwart censors.
The following chapters teach methods of changing your own IP location. Ankit recommends using What Is My IP Address http://www.whatismyipaddress.com after implementing each method to make sure you’ve accomplished that goal.
14) Web / HTTP proxy servers
Using anonymous proxies is the easiest and most common method of circumventing Web censorship. One connects to an overseas proxy which makes all access look like it’s originating in the remote location.
15) URL obfuscating web proxies
Good proxies change the URLs enroute to avoid detection. Clicking on links should generate a new proxy page.
16) Proxy lists
Proxies change all the time. The best means of finding one to use is a search for “anonymous proxies” or “proxy servers” which will result websites carrying long and current lists of proxies. Govt censors can’t block them all.
17) Proxy bouncing or chaining
If you’re really serious about your privacy, you may wish to employ a chain of proxies. To this end, SocksChain http://ufasoft.com/socks/ looks relatively easy to configure – Windows only.
18) Public DNS servers
You don’t need to use your local ISP’s Domain Name Servers. In some cases, deleting your ISP’s DNS and using free, public DNS, will unblock some webpages. OpenDNS http://www.opendns.com/, Google DNS http://code.google.com/speed/public-dns/, DNS Advantage http://www.dnsadvantage.com/, Visizone DNS http://visizone.com/, Norton DNS https://dns.norton.com and DNS Resolvers http://dnsresolvers.com/ are all useful for this purpose. We prefer OpenNIC http://www.opennicproject.org/ which has proven reliable for us. Not too hard and instructions for your OS are on each site.
Ultrasurf http://ultrasurf.us/index.html is a Windows-only application created by Falun Gong supporters to unblock China’s Internet. Unlike traditional proxy servers, Ultrasurf supports cookies, scripts and even SSL. Ultrasurf may also be used on a thumbdrive, MP3 player or camera flashcard to access the Internet at public terminals for added security. When Ultrasurf is closed, it automatically deletes all browsing history and cookies, removing your traces. If this download link is blocked, an Internet search will reveal other mirrors. Beware that testing has revealed Ultrasurf does leave a user’s IP trail exposed.
20) Your Freedom
Your Freedom http://www.your-freedom.net connects to its own changing network of proxy servers. The application is available for Windows, Java and Mac platforms. If this link is blocked, a search will locate alternate mirrors. Registration with a valid email address is required. On startup, Your Freedom will search its proxy servers for you to use.
21) The Onion Router (TOR)
TOR https://www.torproject.org is a free utility which employs hundreds of volunteer relay servers. Its cross-platform browser using SSL tunneling is the Internet’s sine qua non of circumvention and privacy. TOR “is an anonymous communication mechanism that ensures that any intermediaries can read neither the data nor the data header that they are transmitting, hence giving complete anonymity to both the sender and the recipient. Once data is encrypted at the source computer it is then routed through multiple intermediate nodes called onion routers. No intermediary onion router knows the complete path.” The user may seamlessly switch between countries. If the link above is blocked, send an email to email@example.com from any email account that can accept large attachments (like Gmail or Yahoo). Make sure you type “help” in the body of the email and they will get back to you with instructions on how to download a relevant TOR package via email.
Freegate http://www.dit-inc.us/freegate is a Windows-only application using its own network of proxy servers created and maintained by Falun Gong adherents. Freegate is available with English, Chinese, Farsi and Spanish language interfaces but is also used with Arabic and Vietnamese.
DynaWeb was created by the Freegate developers. It uses one of the world’s largest series of proxy servers, constantly shifting IP addresses to keep ahead of Chinese censors. DynaWeb may be used via domain names, email or the Freegate client. DynaWeb may be accessed in English here http://dongtaiwang.com/home_en.php. Users may also send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org which will return DynaWeb’s current list of proxies.
24) Hide My IP
Hide My IP http://www.hide-my-ip.com/ is an application for Windows and Mac OS available for a free 14-day trial and costing $29.95 to buy thereafter. Anonymises your Web surfing by…hiding your IP!
25) JonDo (Java Anonymous Proxy) IP changer
JonDo http://anonymous-proxy-servers.net/en/jondo.html is a free cross-platform application for Windows, Mac, Linux, Java, Android to conceal your IP address. It acts as a proxy to encrypt your IP in multiple mix cascades.
26) Green Simurgh
Green Simurgh https://simurghesabz.net was created to unblock the Iranian Internet; in fact, its website is in Farsi. The application is Windows-only and can work from flash media leaving no trace. Green Simurgh only works natively with the Internet Explorer browser but alternative browsers will work if the user configures them to utilise Port 2048.
Alkasir http://www.alkasir.com, meaning circumventor in Arabic, is a free Windows-only application accessing its own network of proxy servers developed by a Yemeni journalist .
28) Browser Add-ons or extensions
Mozilla Firefox has numerous free add-ons, and Apple Safari, Opera and Google Chrome have extensions. These are scripts or utilities which add user functionality to Web surfing.
• Mozilla Firefox Add-ons – https://addons.mozilla.org
- Safari extensions https://extensions.apple.com/en-us/
• Opera extensions https://addons.opera.com/en/addons/extensions/
• Google Chrome extensions https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/extensions
Many of these extensions will block pop-ups, Flash video and plug-ins, allow you to connect to the Internet using a proxy server, anonymise your connection to protect your privacy and unblock censored websites transparently.
Search for extensions in your preferred category. Some might be Hide My Ass! Web Proxy, FoxyProxy Standard, Quick Proxy, Proxy Tool, EFF’s HTTPS Everywhere. This list is hardly exhaustive. Do some digging for great results. You’ll have some fun seeing how these work.
29) Secure VPNs
Virtual Private Networks are extensively used by businesses for corporate security. They also bypass government censorship. In fact, they are the only kind of circumvention we are certain is legal in Thailand.
Several free cross-platform VPN services are available. HotSpot Shield http://hotspotshield.com also supports Flash and streaming video on Windows, Linux and Mac but will disable any ongoing torrent or Usenet downloads active. SecurityKISS http://www.securitykiss.com/ offers customised Tunnelblick software especially effective on Mac OS. Private Tunnel https://www.privatetunnel.com/ works on Windows and Mac. Cyberghost http://cyberghostvpn.com is Windows only. CyberGhost also offers a privacy browser VPN service for iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone at the Apple AppStore for $4.99 USD with no additional fees.
30) Premium VPNs
One of the major complaints of VPN users is restriction of your bandwidth speeds. If you have to pay for VPN, best choose carefully. Most premium VPN services cost around $10 USD and some are rather difficult in initial setup and maintaining a trouble-free connection. Ankit recommends Hide My Ass Pro VPN https://www.hidemyass.com which claims more than 22,500 UP addresses in 36 countries.
I recommend VPNs which are specifically intended to conceal BitTorrent traffic because I’d like to support activism rather than just commerce:
- Pirate Party of Canada https://crm.pirateparty.ca/vpn $10/mo (200GB), $84/yr;
- Pirate Party of Sweden – Relakks https://www.relakks.com/ €15/mo, €45/yr, Free 24-hour trial;
- iPREDator – The Pirate Bay https://www.ipredator.se/, €15/3mo.
We highly advise you NOT pick any VPN which is based in USA. They take their copyright far too seriously.
See Psiphon 3 below.
Psiphon was developed by Internet freedom activists in Canada as a network of advanced proxy servers. Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) maintains a Psiphon node which may be used by FACT petition signers. For details, email email@example.com.
Last year, Psiphon released its free Windows-only VPN client, Psiphon 3 https://828384.info/xgYcmn/?lang=en. Psiphon claims Mac and Android versions are in the works.
32) Watching US streaming video for free
If you are located outside the US or many other countries, you’ll need a VPN connection whose IP address is located in your country of choice for streaming video content. HotSpotShield above works well as do the premium VPN providers.
33) Listening to Pandora music streaming for free
Similarly, music streaming from sites like Pandora and many others need to be accessed using a VPN in your target country.
34) Remote Desktop
This system can be used to connect to your computer network in any other place or any country to bypass local blocking and filtering. Ankit recommends the software application TeamViewer http://www.teamviewer.com/ for Windows and Mac.
Other popular free and paid remote desktop software are:
• Log Me In (https://www.logmein.com)
• Real VNC (http://www.realvnc.com/)
• Tight VNC (http://www.tightvnc.com/)
• Ultra VNC (http://www.uvnc.com/)
• Windows Remote Desktop Connection (http://www.microsoft.com)
35) The Tails OS
The Tails operating system http://tails.boum.org is an OS which can run from a bootable live CD or flashdrive for complete anonymous Internet access by utilising TOR. Windows instructions for setup are in this chapter.
36) Firewall tunneling with SSH and PuTTy
The Secure Shell (SSH) protocol uses Port 22 and PuTTY is an open source client which establishes its connection using SSH, Telnet and other remote systems. Free download here: http://www.putty.org/. PuTTY is also available as a portable application that you can run from your USB flashdrive: http://www.portableapps.com. Windows instructions. SSH Tunnel accounts may also be purchased on various websites like https://camolist.com/sshtunnel/ which is currently providing a SSH tunnel account to users at a subscription price of $5 USD per month.
37) Unblocking instant messengers / chat
Port shifting to unblock chat applications.
38) Web messengers
If chat functions cannot be accessed, these will get you talking directly from your browser.
- Google Talk http://www.gmail.com and http://www.google.com/talk/
- MSN Messenger http://webmessenger.live.com
- Yahoo Messenger http://messenger.yahoo.com/web
- IMO (Supports MSN, Skype, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AIM and many others) https://imo.im/
- eBuddy (Supports MSN, Yahoo, Google, AIM, ICQ, Facebook and others) http://www.ebuddy.com/
39) Unblocking Facebook chat
Facebook chat may be unblocked using the Windows-only standalone software Chit Chat http://www.chitchat.org.uk using your Facebook vanity username and account password to login.
The following chapters get a bit technical. You may need some help.
40) MAC spoofing to unblock download caps
41) Password cracking to unblock download caps
42) Unblocking USB ports
Windows instructions for using your flashdrive, by registry method
43) Unblocking USB ports, Part 2
and BIOS settings.
44) Unblocking applications
Running portable applications like browsers, instant messengers, torrents and others from your flashdrive, memory card, camera, MP3 Player or CD without the need of an operating system or without the need of making any changes to the system files.
45) Bootable OSs
Windows computers can switch to Linux Ubuntu, Knoppix and others using a bootable CD, flashdrive, MP3 player or camera memory card.
Popular bootable Linux distributions for this purpose are here:
- Knoppix http://www.knoppix.net
- Ubuntu (Ankit’s favourite!) http://www.ubuntu.com
- Fedora http://fedoraproject.org
- Slax http://www.slax.org
- Tails http://tails.boum.org
- Linux Mint http://www.linuxmint.com
46) Unblocking torrents
ISPs, schools and companies everywhere jealously guard their expensive bandwidth. Goes without saying they hate us BitTorrent pirates! However, files can be downloaded using your Web browser with Bitlet http://www.bitlet.org. Torrent 2 EXE http://www.torrent2exe.com changes the .torrent file to .exe. Txtor http://txtor.dwerg.net/ does the same using the .txt suffix.
47) Unblocking torrents using SSH and PuTTy
48) Secondary Internet access
Scanning for accessible WiFi hotspots.
49) How to read pay subscription articles for free
Searching by article name to circumvent media paywalls. Google News http://news.google.com can search specfic news sites searching for “site:[media URL] [Article title]”.
50) How to unlock more speed
Taking good care of your computer to keep its efficiency up.
51) Unblocking video streaming websites
Download, don’t stream. In addition to free, standalone applications for every platform, use free video download sites such as KeepVid http://www.keepvid.com, SaveVid http://www.savevid.com, ClipNabber Classic http://clipnabber.com/clipnabber_classic.php, IcyVideo http://www.icyvideo.com/ for YouTube, Vimeo, Google Video and others. Zamzar http://www.zamzar.com offers a host of services, free and paid, including file format conversion, downloading videos and sending large files.
This is awesome information for every netizen. You definitely don’t need to have much geek factor to use almost all the techniques in this book.
Bottom line: BUY THIS BOOK NOW! Ankit provided FACT with a paperback hard copy for review but the information would be much more readily useable if hot hyperlinks are available in an electronic version. These can be fiddled from the electronic .AZW copy Amazon supplies (labour-intensive) but this proprietary format is certainly not the most user-accessible.
My only gripe might be that some, but certainly not all, the information only applies to Windows PCs. I use a real computer (thank you, Steve). Most of the software is also PC although some, as I’ve noted above, also supports other platforms like Mac or Linux. These latter two are far better for security anyway.
Ankit is coolheaded. He does not rant or rail or rave against the evils of censorship and what it means to the future of human thought and discourse. To be frank, being a ranter and railer and raver myself, I missed that. Politics. Philosophy. This is a how-to book.
What’s missing? As far as we can tell, only Google privacy as Google’s privacy invasion consolidating your user information by tracking you across every Google service is a recent development. Information in How to Unblock EVERYTHING on the Internet! is static—it’s a book and can’t respond rapidly to a changing Internet landscape.
The good news is that almost all the resources and software in the book is free and/or open source. Gotta love free!
How to Unblock EVERYTHING on the Internet! is the best ten bucks you’ll ever spend on your computer. FACT’s five-star guarantee!
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)