October 14 2021 GM

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Glitter Meetups

Glitter Meetup is the weekly town hall of the Internet Freedom community at the IFF Square on the IFF Mattermost, at 9am EDT / 1pm UTC. Do you need an invite? Learn how to get one here.

Date: October 14th, Thursday

Time: 9am EST / 1:00 PM UTC

Where: IFF Square on IFF Mattermost

Topic: Pluggable Transports

Pluggable Transports (PT) are being developed and used to circumvent Internet censorship. If you use any VPNs, the Tor network or other services to access blocked content in you network, chances are that you are using PTs in the background. This monthly meetup welcomes users, developers and PT enthusiasts to share their news/updates happening once per month.

Topic of Discussion: Introduction of the PTIM 2021 event that takes place almost one week after the meeting. We will talk about what happened this last month in the PT/anti-censorship world.

Featured Guest: Vasilis, co-host of the NEW Pluggable Transport Meetup. More info about them here: https://magma.lavafeld.org/


Community News

  • RSVP for the 2021 Community Health Village here
  • MozFest Call for Proposals is open
  • Help the Tor Project filling this survey
  • The Calyx Institute has a survey about digital security needs

Topic of Discussion: Pluggable Transports

Vasilis from magma guide. Magma provides documentation specifically on detecting, researching or "understanding" how Internet censorship happens. Vasilis is available as @anadahz on Mattermost, and he was our featured guest sharing his knowledge about Pluggable Transports. He is working with Internews too, that has small grants dedicated to Pluggable Transports

Brief Introduction to Pluggable Transports:

  • Pluggable Transports (PTs) help you bypass Internet censorship, and more specifically it helps:
    • Developers: To integrate different censorship circumvention techniques into their existing software.
    • Users: To bypass Internet censorship on a given network.
  • An Example case From Tor Pluggable Transports (PT), that transform the Tor traffic flow between the client and the bridge. This way, censors who monitor traffic between the client and the bridge will see innocent-looking transformed traffic instead of the actual Tor traffic. External programs can talk to Tor clients and Tor bridges using the pluggable transport API, to make it easier to build interoperable programs.
  • Furthermore, a good introduction on PTs can be found here
  • If are a visual person you may enjoy the short video explanation of PTs in many languages.

Last GM/PT meeting we talked about some real-life examples, and a bit about the PT community, are there any new events or developments in the PT/anti-censorship world?

  • It's been some time ago that Turkmenistan (TM) has started blocking Tor and probably also Psiphon (altough psix.ca is showing some user fro TM).
  • It seems that private obfs4 bridges and snowflake could be working in TM but we have very very few reports/network measurements from this country.
  • obfs4 --> Is a PT that has been used widely by many Tor and many VPNs.
  • A participant adds that last week the Tor anti-censorship team talked about using the STATUS message in the PT protocol to have PT implementations report their version number to their managing process. STATUS is a Tor-specific message, and is not present in other PT specifications.
    • Tor graphs from Turkmenistan: Here and here
  • There is an OONI report showing that Psiphon test is not working in Turkmenistan. (Though it is not conclusive as there are not many OONI network measurements to be sure).

Is Psiphon a form of PT? Could you also expand on the relation between PTs and these other tools that i guess users here are more familiar with (such as Tor, Lantern, et al)?

  • Psiphon is kind of a VPN that uses PTs to circumvent internet censorship.
  • Think of a PT as a circumvention technique that lives within an app. So Psiphon is the app and within it, it leverages PTs.

What can us non technical folks do to help with this stuff. what do you need?

  • Spread the word! Help connect people on the ground from censored areas with developers or researchers. Providing network measurements such as OONI from censored places.

There’s going to be an event on this topic soon. Could you share something about it?

  • Yes, the Pluggable Transport Implementers’ Meeting (PTIM) that will next, October 19-21, 2021. The PTIM is designed to be an annual "large tent" gathering to engage with VPNs, major cloud and operating system providers, researchers and developers from the measurements, censorship circumvention PT community.
  • This will be the 3rd PTIM. There was one last year and one in 2017.
  • This will be a fully virtual meeting, allowing people around the world over to congregate online and move this community effort forward.
  • We have a good mix of technical sessions and sessions that should be understandable by anyone.
  • You can find more information here
  • The registration is free! In order to register for ptim 2021 use the following link