Online Censorship in Venezuela
Recent reports indicate both Tor and several (VPN) virtual private network services have been blocked in Venezuela for several months. According to OONI, this includes Opera, Windscribe and TunnelBear VPNs. The intention of the blocks is to stop Venezuelan citizens from getting past state censorship. This includes using local news medial to stop citizens from viewing criticism directed at President Nicolas Maduro. Google Translate and YouTube have also been blocked.
A significant power outage in March of 2019 resulted in 96 percent of the telecommunications infrastructures in the country going down. All of the mobile phone networks and the entire internet in Venezuela went offline. This prevented numerous ordinary citizens from making contact with their family and friends and accessing important information and news. There is nothing an average person can do when the entire internet is down.
During an infrastructure collapse, communication is enabled through satellite phones. unfortunately, this is a very expensive option. When the internet is up and running, there are options that can enable people to access blocked websites.
Using a VPN
One of the best options is a VPN. Unless the VPN app or service is blocked, a VPN can connect the user to a server outside of the country. This will effectively unblock all websites for Venezuelan users. A VPN enables the user to establish a secure connection to a different network through the web. A VPN can be used for hiding the browsing activity of the user, accessing websites that have been restricted and more. The VPN is a type of programming for the creation of an encrypted and safe connection.
Tunneling protocols are used for the encryption of data when it is sent. Once received by the intended party, the data is decrypted. If a specific VPN is blocked, the easiest option is to try a different VPN. Only three known VPN services have been blocked in Venezuela. All of them are free. Numerous citizens are already using VPNs to circumvent the current economic crisis and resulting blocks. This is the reason this type of service has been targeted.
Since the free services are blocked, citizens can try using a cheap VPN. The advanced capabilities using deep packet inspection for the detection of VPN usage is not yet available for any Venezuelan (ISP) internet service provider. This means the blocks being enforced are simple. ISPs are only blacklisting IP addresses when they know they are part of a VPN service. A good example of a VPN is available by clicking here.
Proxy servers are like a bridge between the user and the internet. The intermediary server separates the websites being browsed from the user. Proxy servers offer different levels of privacy, security and functionality depending on the specific requirements of the user. When an individual uses a proxy server, the web traffic goes through the server prior to reaching the requested address. The same proxy server is then used to forward the received data from the website back to the user.
Proxy servers enable the user to browse the internet in complete privacy. Some proxy servers even change identifying information in addition to the IP address. This means the destination server has no way of knowing where the original request came from. This ensures the browsing habits and personal information of the user remain private. The content restrictions imposed by the Venezuelan government can be effectively circumvented.
Anything blocked by the government can be accessed because the server makes it appear the user is in a different country. There are several governments in numerous countries that monitor their citizens and restrict internet access. Proxy servers provide an uncensored internet to the citizens affected. A false IP address can be passed by a distorting proxy server even though it has been identified as a proxy. This is similar to an anonymous proxy with the difference being the false IP address appears to come from a different country to get the user past the content restrictions.
The Pluggable Transport for Tor
Regular access to Tor is occasionally blocked in Venezuela. There are pluggable transports included with Thor. This should enable users to access the service after it has been blocked. The user needs to go to the Tor browser then click on the Tor onion icon located in Tor network settings. There is a checkbox for Tor being censored in the country. This must be checked. The built-in bridge is then selected. If the first bridge does not work, the user can try another one.
If none of them are successful, a custom bridge can be requested. The user clicks OK when they are finished. If access to the actual website has been blocked, a Tor mirror site can be used to download the Tor browser. If the official list has been censored, a web search needs to be performed.
Creating a VPN Server
It is effective and inexpensive to create a VPN server by renting a virtual server. The server must be in an uncensored location. This will get past the type of ISP censorship being used in Venezuela. It is extremely unlikely a private IP address will be blocked because it has not been registered as a VPN service. Some technical ability is required to create a VPN server from scratch. There are companies that automate the procedure to enable the average person to set up and run a private VPN server.