Internet users in Uzbekistan have reported being blocked from accessing proxy servers, according to Uznews.
Uztelecom, which holds the monopoly on access to international telecom networks in Uzbekistan, has started blocking proxy servers in an attempt to further restrict Internet access in the country. Proxy servers allow Internet users to circumvent many of the strict filtering mechanisms put in place by authoritarian governments around the world by allowing netizens to ‘hide’ their IP address.
For now, only servers with the word ‘proxy’ in their name are being blocked. Soon others will follow as Uztelecom is drawing up a list of all proxies available to add to the ban list, Uznews reports. Proxy blocking is not a new technique, however and has been used on and off in other countries such as Belarus.
Internet users in Uzbekistan trying to circumvent censorship still have two options. One is to not use a web-based proxy, but modify the browser settings directly. This, however, is already too technically advanced for many users. A second option is to use the anonymizing tool Tor. These techniques are not without problems themselves: sites which post lists of free proxies are also being blocked, as well as the site to download Tor. Only those who have already downloaded the program—or those who can find it on a mirror site—can continue to use it.
While it seems the Uzbek cyberpolice are continually refining their strategies with increasing success, some backdoors will remain open. Hacktivist Ronald Deibert of Citizen Lab, creators of anonymizing software Psiphon, tells the story of a local informant who discovered an ISP without restrictions: the ISP was owned by a family friend of the president and served as an open window on the Internet for the country’s elite.
Last month Washington-based media freedom watchdog Freedom House called Uzbekistan “Not Free” and gave it a score of 77 out of 100 of it’s Freedom of the Net report, with a score of 0 being completely free.