How to Access Blocked Websites at Work or School

If you’re looking for a guaranteed way to visit blocked websites like YouTube, MySpace, etc. at school or at work then Psiphon may be just the program you need.

There’s a wide range of ways to circumnavigate the censors on your network, be it the Torpark browser, proxy servers, or anonymizers, but none are as simple and virtually guaranteed to work as is Psiphon.

Developed in a basement lab at the University of Toronto, a team of political scientists, software engineers and computer-hacking activists, or “hactivists,” collaborated to created this powerful tool to allow Internet users to circumvent censorship of the Internet.

“Governments have militarized their censorship efforts to an incredible extent so we’re trying to reverse some of that and restore that promise that the Internet once had for unfettered access and communication,” said Ronald Deibert, director of the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab where Psiphon was developed.

Now most who read this are likely to have less than such idealistic notions of circumventing government censorship, but the problem is nonetheless the same – beating network censors.

The guide that follows will explain Psiphon in more detail as well as walk you the process of installation and setup step by step.

How Does It Work?

How Do I Set It Up?

How Do I Connect as a User?

How Anonymous is Psiphon?

Can the Use of Psiphon Be Detected?

How Does It Work ?

Psiphon turns any Internet-connected PC into a personal, encrypted server capable of retrieving and displaying web pages for users that connect to it.

It works like this: A user outside a censored country or network downloads and installs the Psiphon program. This administrator running the Psiphon node, or “Psiphonode Administrator,” is responsible for creating and managing user accounts and running the Psiphon server on his PC. He is the one that creates accounts with usernames and passwords that he then distributes to those whose web traffic he wishes to route through his PC.

Users log onto the Psiphonode PC through an encrypted connection, using it as a proxy to gain access to censored sites and material. There is no connection between the psiphonite and the requested website, as psiphon transparently proxies the request through the psiphonode’s computer allowing the psiphonite to browse blocked websites seamlessly.

Each Psiphonode is completely decentralized and independent of all others, so that even if your IP address, i.e. your Psiphonode address, is blocked, simply install Psiphon on another PC with a different IP address to continue using.

What’s nice too is that it requires NO SOFTWARE INSTALLATION on the part of the “Psiphonites,” or Psiphon users. They simply connect to a unique web address that is a composition of the Psiphonode’s IP address, connection port, and Psiphonode name.

The best method is to set it up and run on your home PC for personal use while at work or school.


How Do I Set It Up?

1. Begin by downloading and installing Psiphon.

2. Open and select the “Setup” tab as shown below.

3. “Update” your external IP address.

4. “Test” to make sure that port #443, which it is set to run on by default is available.

**NOTE: You can change the port number in the settings menu if you so desire.**

NOTE: You can choose to change the port it uses for whatever reason. Also, if your PC’s connects to the Internet via a router you need to “forward the port” selected here.

5. Next choose a name for your Psiphonode.

6. Finish the setup by selecting “OK.”

7. It’s then time to create user accounts, which we will do so by selecting the “Add” tab.

8. Start by creating a username and password. The remaining options are for your own informational purposes only and are not required to create a user account.

9. Lastly, select “Start” to begin running the program.

How Do I Connect as a User?

1. To connect as a user, or “Psiphonite,” start by typing the Internet address that the Psiphonode Administrator sends to you.

It will be as follows:

http://(IP address):(port)/(node name)

The Psiphonode Administrator will see the following after you successfully connect.

2. Type your username and password in the login boxes provided and then click “Submit.”

You should then be connected and able to navigate to pages and sites of your choice.

Here’s a few examples:

You can even bookmark pages if you so desire using the “Add Bookmark” button as shown below.

How Anonymous is Psiphon?

The traffic between the Psiphon Administrator and the the user is completely encrypted however, the Administrator can view the logs of the user’s web traffic. So don’t use it to check out anything you don’t want the the Administrator to see, i.e. porn and what not.

Can the Use of Psiphon Be Detected?

Unless the attacker has the private psiphon URL it cannot be easily determined that psiphon is being used.

From the site:

From a technical perspective traffic between the psiphonode and the psiphonite is identical to normal HTTPS (encrypted) traffic. Although many sites only use HTTPS during the login process many sites, such as email providers and banking services, use HTTPS for extended periods of time, as does psiphon. The differences are that psiphon uses self-signed certificates and connections to home computers, rather than signed certificates and domain names.

NOTE: There’s also a great slideshow available that will help better visualize how Psiphon works and what it’s capable of.