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Google to take on Internet censorship

  • 22 October 2013
  • Written by 
  • Published in Security

Google has announced a number of new services in a targeted effort to protect news organisations and human rights groups from cyber effects and, more broadly, 'free expression' on the Internet.

The tech giant used a New York presentation today to unveil uProxy, a service that should allow citizens in oppressive regimes to bypass government censorship and surveillance online. Google said the software will be available for its Chrome browser and Firefox but not for Internet Explorer, for now anyway.

The way it works is that if someone from a country with limited internet access, like China for example, installs uProxy, they can get a friend from the US to authorize them to surf the open web using their connection.

“If you look at existing proxy tools today, as soon as they’re effective for dissidents, the government finds out about them and either blocks them or infiltrates them,” Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, told Time magazine.

“Every dissident we know in every repressive society has friends outside the country whom they know and trust. What if those trusted friends could unblock the access in those repressive societies by sharing their own access? That was the problem we tried to solve.”

The service has yet to launch, but its creators, the University of Washington and Brave New Software, have opened a restricted beta in order to make the service as "secure, private, and robust" as possible.

Googe also unveiled a new map that highlights cyber-attacks taking place around the world in real time, in an effort to track DDOS attacks as they occur.

"Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks can be used to make important online information unavailable to the world," Google said.

"Sites covering elections are brought down to influence their outcome, media sites are attacked to censor stories, and businesses are taken offline by competitors looking for a leg up. Protecting access to information is important for the Internet and important for free expression."

The new initiatives come from Google Ideas, a think-tank established by the company in 2010.

Reuters also reported under Google's 'Project Shield' initiative, the company said it would host sites that frequently came under politically-motivated distributed denial-of-service attacks. Because of the size and sophistication of its technical infrastructure, Google is far more able to withstand such attacks compared to websites hosted independently.

The product remains in testing, Google said, as is the case with uProxy.

Anyone interested in uProxy can check it out in more detail here.


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