Iranian tech activists detail how tech industry could unblock internet access to aid anti-regime protests

Iranian tech activists detail how tech industry could unblock internet access to aid anti-regime protests

As Iranians struggle to access the internet as civil protests continue to grow against the regime, TechCrunch spoke to a tech entrepreneur inside the country to get a picture of how a small group of activists is working to get internet access working again inside the country after it was weakened by the government, in order to disseminate information about the protests.

He told me that access has become a “game of cat and mouse” with authorities, but the Tor project, which uses free and open-source software to enable anonymous communication, has become an essential means to circumvent these problems. Indeed, Tor has published details regarding the use of Snowflake, which has also facilitated internet access in Iran.

“VPN services provide a free service to Iranians. The TOR project adds bridges, but few of them will work,” he said.

“The government has blocked access to most non-Iranian IP addresses on residential connections (essentially a whitelist with limited speed) and all non-Iranian IP addresses on 3G/4G mobile data (and most people are connected to the internet via mobile data). All these services (VPN/TOR/etc) have servers outside Iran which is not useful. People cannot connect to them”, he told me.

However, he said, there is a way around this: “Iranian data center servers have a full-speed connection to the Internet.”

So he and a few others are now acquiring servers in these Iranian data centers, installing a VPN server there, and ensuring that all incoming traffic is “tunneled” to another server outside of Iran.

“Then the Iranian VPN server login details are shared with people who can connect to it from any device at any time of the day (the internet is almost cut off at night when the protests are most intense. , but connections to servers in Iran are still working),” he told me via a secure method of communication.

However, the use of this method is not scalable. Iranian tech companies themselves cannot buy many servers from Iranian data centers because it raises too many red flags with regime authorities.

“And we can’t publicly share the login information because the login information includes the server’s IP address which can be easily used by the government to identify who purchased it, and then they can sue us,” he explained.

Instead, Iranian engineers have been in contact with the Tor project to help build bridges inside Iran.

To achieve this, he and others worked on a Github document called “InternetForIran”.

This details how machines inside Iranian data centers could be used to connect to websites and servers containing information about protests inside Iran, since the government has not not yet block Internet access to these internal servers, and may not do so for fear of debilitating own access.

Activists are now calling on the tech industry outside of Iran – especially the Iranian diaspora – to help in legitimate buying a server in Iran.

Document outlines how supporters could send activists IP address and SSH credentials by emailing InternetForIran@proton.me“We will configure the server and send the VPN details back to you to share with your friends and family in Iran,” it says.

However, activists say anyone in Iran should not follow this procedure as the action would be too risky. Additionally, there are also details on how hacker groups can help activists.

TechCrunch understands that some members of the Tor Project consider the above procedure to be potentially dangerous. “I don’t know how safe it is to do this and what could happen if they get caught,” a source told me.

Additionally, the issue is being discussed on Tor chat servers.

My contact told me that this method could be crucial in helping the protests against the dictatorial regime: “People inside Iran don’t see the videos and information about the protests. All they see is government propaganda. We can give them access, but we need help.

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