Blocking access to websites is a common practice by governments in different countries. Somehow they fail to realize that there are thousand routes to a website and millions of users are smarter that a handful of government IT department workers. For example, very recently the Indian government decided to invade the personal rights and privacy of individuals (probably based on very vague and misunderstood ethical or cultural considerations) and went ahead to block a number of porn websites. Protests ensued and they revoked it within days.
What if you are not so lucky and living in a country which imposes these bans? As we mentioned above, there are numerous ways like Tor (also here), VPN etc. to visit blocked websites. They provide a fair degree of anonymity. We also explored uProxy, a browser plugin to unblock websites. Recently we came across Lantern, a desktop application for fast unblocked internet access.
Lantern uses the bandwidth of users in uncensored regions to route the data for users in censored regions. It uses P2P and domain fronting among several techniques to ensure a open internet for all. Lantern is available for Linux, Windows and Mac. It is written in Go.
The head developer of Lantern (and founder of Brave New Software Project, Inc., the non-profit developers on Lantern) Adam Fisk was also one of the lead developers of LimeWire and LittleShoot.
Lantern detects automatically if a site is blocked or not. If blocked, it uses its own server to route the data or through other Lantern users. If unblocked, Lantern doesn’t do anything. As you might have guessed by now, it uses both centralized and P2P architectures to achieve this.
Regarding security, Lantern is not anonymous. It encrypts the data so that governments or ISPs cannot snoop but access points can check which website is being accessed from where. However, they cannot decipher the data you send or receive from the website easily as the connection is over https.
You can download and install Lantern from its website (linked below). When you run it, the icon in the system tray will indicate whether it’s running or not. You can also quit Lantern using the icon.