on censorship, anonymity: Telex

You may have heard of anonymity services, like Tor, which help to hide the nature of internet communications. Tor works by encrypting connections and by using random paths between nodes. It hides the who, but not the what [1].

Insert Telex, a new form of anomyzing software. It embraces the controllers of network activity, ISP’s, by recognizing and utilizing them as gatekeepers:

As the connection travels over the Internet en route to the non-blacklisted site, it passes through routers at various ISPs in the core of the network. We envision that some of these ISPs would deploy equipment we call Telex stations. These devices hold a private key that lets them recognize tagged connections from Telex clients and decrypt these HTTPS connections. The stations then divert the connections to anti­censorship services, such as proxy servers or Tor entry points, which clients can use to access blocked sites. This creates an encrypted tunnel between the Telex user and Telex station at the ISP, redirecting connections to any site on the Internet.

I can see this path as having a few major advantages. Once you have the cooperation of an ISP then the Telex stations should be easily distributable among all current nodes of that ISP. If you have one, you should have them all. However, if you don’t get the first one then you have no chance at the others.

It is also helpful that the Telex process can be used in tandem with other types of services. An end user can protect himself with both Tor and Telex, allowing for anonymity of person with the allowance of channels that can funnel the data you seek.

On the downside, changing how ISP’s process information requests could be difficult. In an excellent post on Slashdot, CmdrTaco covers this topic with more depth. The obvious issue of large-scale deployment is brought up on MetaFilter, thanks to the user, FishBike.

[1] https://telex.cc/

  1. jskitter said:

    I can’t say I really understand this. Wouldn’t it simply ease censorship, in the sense that all encrypted traffic would now be suspicious?

    • bovis said:

      The basic idea, as I understand it, is to funnel suspicious sites and have them be recognized as an unsuspicious sites. The use of https is smart because many larger entities, such as Amazon or Google, are https compatable. Countries do business over sites like this and inherently will leave them open to the public, to a certain degree.

      You run into a road block when the internet, as a whole, is blocked. I can see the Telex system being a nice addition to the fight for a free internet, even if the system is inherently limited by the type of traffic that governments let by in the first place.

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