UAE firewall circumvention
January 13, 2006 1:09 PM   Subscribe

I had heard that there was a pretty harsh proxy firewall set up for the United Arab Emirates... but I largely ignored it as I didn't plan or needing warez, pornography, or dissident views. I'm here now, and an absolutely astounding amount of (non-prurient, non-dangerous) things are blocked. Is there a workaround?

...the straw that broke the camel's back was when I found out Flikr was blocked. That's just overkill.

I've googled as much as I can (actually not all that much--given that I'm limited by the very problem I'm trying to overome) and what I can find (suggesting using translation services, etc) is outdated and won't seem to work. Won't you help me circumvent this... and help fight the good fight?
posted by anonymous to Technology (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
TCP tunneling is probably your best bet, if you have resources outside the firewall you can access. Look into HTTPort and HTTHost.
posted by Jairus at 1:23 PM on January 13, 2006

Isn't it great discovering what censorship is like for the first time? Did they have that wholesome interceptor page stating that because of the muslim values of the UAE such sites are blocked? I discovered that in Dubai when visiting a nefarious website. But that is very strange that UAE is blocking Flickr as there are many many people there that use Flickr. One possiblity is looking into other ISPs. The hotel I used in another muslim country luckily must have had satallite and was from India. They don't seem to have as strict censorship rules.
posted by _zed_ at 1:24 PM on January 13, 2006

Not sure if it solves your problem, but are you hip to Tor?
posted by jeb at 1:24 PM on January 13, 2006

and be sure to share your solution with others who don't get the chance to leave the censored environment.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:38 PM on January 13, 2006

I think something like Tor might work. I'd also make sure you use military-grade encryption everywhere. Encrypt your hard drive, all 'net traffic you can, etc. Especially if you find a way around it.

As a last resort, you might be able to set up a shell account on a Unix machine somewhere else (America or Europe, maybe), and ssh (or even a VPN) to that machine to do your web browsing. If you have an X11-enabled machine, you could even do graphical browsing, and keep the entire session encrypted.

I find it odd that Flickr is blocked -- I have contacts from the UAE in Flickr. But they have been pretty quiet lately -- I wonder if that's why? It was blocked , I think, because there are some pictures of naked women on Flickr. There was a big flame war about this on one of the Flickr groups, IIRC.

The one thing I'd urge you to do: find out what the penalty for getting caught circumventing the firewall is first. That will help you determine a) if it's worth it, and b) how careful you need to be. I know I'd err on the side of very, very careful. Completely paranoid, even.
posted by teece at 1:39 PM on January 13, 2006

The purpose of Tor is to hide your identify from the remote site, not to hide your browsing from your ISP. I wouldn't rely on it.
posted by Jairus at 1:42 PM on January 13, 2006

posted by Jairus at 1:42 PM on January 13, 2006

The ISP is unlikely to care much, the point is to get around them, yeah? Install on a webhosting account or something and you'll be set.
posted by Firas at 1:49 PM on January 13, 2006

What about buying some credit at

That is, wouldn't an SSL connection to a proxy be enough?
posted by deadfather at 2:25 PM on January 13, 2006

Er, The Cloak.
posted by deadfather at 2:26 PM on January 13, 2006

Pursuant to Firas's suggestion, you can get root on a virtual server at unixshell and install a proxy script that you go through. Their cheapest account will do very nicely, and it's *really* cheap.

If you don't have the inclination or technical skill to set up and self-host a proxy, you can get an Internet Shield account at Church of the Swimming Elephant for about 6 bucks a month. As soon as they set you up, email support and ask them to enable ssh tunneling. Install a program like Bitvise Tunnelier (free for personal use) to set up your tunnels, and you're in business.
posted by evariste at 2:29 PM on January 13, 2006

BTW, I've been using for years, they're great!
posted by evariste at 2:30 PM on January 13, 2006

try http-tunnel. Free and paid, both. Goes through port 80..
posted by provolot at 3:17 PM on January 13, 2006

Do they not have satellite internet available?
posted by mhuckaba at 3:38 PM on January 13, 2006

"the straw that broke the camel's back was when I found out Flikr was blocked. That's just overkill."

Lots of erotica on Flickr, if I was the UAE I'd block it.

teece writes "I'd also make sure you use military-grade encryption everywhere."

Use something like double TrueCrypt for plausible deniability.
posted by Mitheral at 4:40 PM on January 13, 2006

I have a couple of servers (linux, solaris) at various places in the U.S. that run sshd and a squid proxy that listens to localhost (squid is an http proxy). I use ssh to create a tunnel from my machine to the squid proxy. With that, I can use any application that supports http tunneling - web, IM, skype, etc - and it's all encrypted from my laptop back to the states, so noone can read my IMs, websites I visit, etc. unless they have compromised my laptop or my colo machines or the ISP they're hosted at.

Any random web host that gives you ssh access should be enough to set this up for yourself, or find a friend willing to run sshd and squid on a machine that is publicly accessible.

ssh tunnel: 8888 forwards to "localhost:8888"
squid proxy: listens on "localhost:8888"
local application (firefox, trillian, etc): http / localhost:8888

Good luck.
posted by cactus at 5:12 PM on January 13, 2006

Run an X server locally, find a shell host with X client libraries, build firefox, set DISPLAY, and away you go.
posted by devilsbrigade at 6:01 PM on January 13, 2006

See the RSF Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents.
posted by Sharcho at 6:09 PM on January 13, 2006

You know, you probably also really ought to check up on the encryption laws in your country. While it can certainly hide what you are doing (if used properly), it may also have severe penalties for use in the UAE. I dunno.
posted by teece at 8:43 AM on January 14, 2006

Check this out. It gives tips for several countries, but it might be useful.
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 10:17 AM on January 14, 2006

Internet Filtering in the United Arab Emirates in 2004-2005: A Country Study might have some interesting information for you.
posted by pracowity at 11:12 AM on January 14, 2006

The ISP is unlikely to care much

I think they do care, that they're entirely complicit in censoring their customers, judging from what I've read in all the related flickr threads. It seems they only have one ISP, Etisalat, and that they actively monitor what their customers are doing. The first time flickr was blocked in the UAE (june 2005?) was when a single flickr member (who lives there) reported the site to Etisalat, who then promptly blocked it.

are you hip to Tor?

Last I heard is blocked as well, but the flickr team is going to be implementing an adult content filtering mechanism sometime this year, which will presumably allow Etisalat to give flickr access back to it's customers.
posted by zarah at 2:13 PM on January 14, 2006

Oops, I forgot to add this link: use google as a free proxy If google isn't blocked, maybe this will work for you.
posted by zarah at 2:23 PM on January 14, 2006

if yer in the UAE, visit that amazing seven start burj-al-arab...

I wonder if you could get your hand chopped off for trying to get around the firewall. seriously!
posted by Izzmeister at 10:27 AM on January 15, 2006

Web Proxy List
posted by Sharcho at 3:17 PM on January 15, 2006

if you have web hosting and SSH access, all you need is PuTTY. Here's a self-link to instructions on my blog: Easy SSH Tunneling via PuTTY
posted by exhilaration at 2:03 PM on January 16, 2006

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