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Cecylia Bocovich.

Researchers at Canada's University of Waterloo are developing technology that will allow residents of countries where the Internet is censored to access restricted websites.

Called Slitheen — after the aliens on Doctor Who who disguise themselves as humans to evade detection — the technology will provide users with content blocked in their region and also not reveal that they bypassing the censorship.

"Some countries block certain websites based on their Web address or their content,” said Ian Goldberg, a professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo.

"Similar to the aliens on Doctor Who, our Slitheen censorship-resistance system works by disguising your connection to a restricted website — for example, a connection to Wikipedia or The New York Times — as that of an allowed website, maybe a site about cute cats."

The technology is a work in progress but the research team hopes to have a working version ready for use by the public within a year.

Cecylia Bocovich (seen above), a doctoral student in Goldberg’s lab, and leader of the research project, said: “The technology not only provides users with content blocked in their region, but it also protects them by hiding the fact that they are evading their country’s censorship policies.”

Prof Goldberg, who is also a founding member of the Cryptography, Security, and Privacy research group at Waterloo, acknowledged that a system such as that being developed never would be complete, no matter how sophisticated a censorship-resistance system was.

“Unlike other fields of computer science, we have active adversaries. People see our research and how to protect a system and they use that to try to defeat," he said.

"We have to play both sides of the game — thinking like an attacker to try to defeat our own systems, in order to build better defences.

“There’s always an arms race where the defender makes a better system, then the attacker makes a better system. This is what makes the research fun and interesting but also very challenging."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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