Michael Hull, lead developer of the psiphon project believes the software will directly circumvent government-imposed or regulated content restrictions internationally.
Based in the Creative Lab within the University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International Studies, Hull believes using the trust of established online social networks is key to the effectiveness of the software.
In an exclusive interview with Computerworld, Hull said the software is designed to be easy to use as both a psiphonode (server) and psiphonite (client).
What was the driver for development of psiphon? Better use of social networks?
Psiphon is dependent on a social network of trust model and is to be considered as a tool with which people can reach a hand across borders to provide unfettered Internet access to friends and family members who live in censored countries. We have created software that is remarkably easy to install as a psiphonode (server), and even simpler to use as a psiphonite (clinet). Psiphon gives ordinary people the potential to provide circumvention to people who trust each other. So yes, the social network of trust model is the driver.
How long has the software been in development? Are you experiencing or expecting any feedback from countries that may currently regulate Internet access?
Psiphon has been in development since March 2006 and we began beta testing in early September. We have psiphonites accessing our test psiphonode server from all over the world, including central Asia and the Middle East. The feedback that we have received has been quite extraordinary, as you can imagine. We have received video from some of our testers showing psiphon in action, and the result is quite profound.
Government monitoring of Internet traffic - do you have any assurances the surfing habits of citizens living in countries where Internet access is heavily restricted cannot be traced back to them?
The risk to psiphon users is never zero, but if you take all the steps you can to make it as safe as possible, in the end you'll have something that is much safer than using any other method to visit a censored site. Certainly, the psiphonite must connect to a unique IP address, and in that sense the address can be traced back; however, psiphon has been built to run as a private network connecting to, generally, home computers. The difference between psiphon and other proxy servers is that the connection information is never publicly disclosed. As well, we use encryption passing over typically port 443, so psiphon traffic is essentially buried amongst other commercial traffic.
Have you met any resistance from Internet service providers?
We have not run into any resistance from ISPs to date.