Some routes around internet shut-downs.
1174 words
https://treacherous.tech@andrewfordlyons

When the internet shutdown happens

I'll update this over time. Right now, it's just a running listing of things that can work during an internet shutdown and are relatively user friendly and easy to start using and share with others.

Later, I'll add some points on general censorship circumvention, but first wanted to start with some information on shut-downs, which take advance preparation to deal with, and are more challenging for people to work around.

Some shortcuts:

Transferring data and files via satellite

When the regular internet is shut down, there's always satellite. This site is not focusing on on satellite very much because of the high costs, special equipment requirements and sometimes more advanced technical skill needed. But it is a way of working around a shutdown.

One resources that's fast and relatively inexpensive is Knapsack, by Toosheh. The Knapsack data-
casting system transmits any data, including APKs by satellite. It includes downloads for other software such as Briar and F-Droid, that help make mobiles useful in a shutdown.

Your information recipients do need to have a home satellite system, the kind you'd use for receiving satellite television. Receiving all content is free. The services is useful in Iran and other countries where satellite television is most common.

Iran in Silence: A toolkit in Farsi for when shutdowns happen

The "Iran in Silence" website is an online toolbox in Farsi on how to deal with government shutdowns of the internet. It has a downloadable version with tools to help in the event of an internet shutdown.

Like all information on dealing with internet shutdowns, it only really works if you prepare in advance. There are a number of links to apps and tools that create local networks, or using tools that leverage other communications streams such as satellite.

It includes a section on what a blackout actually is with articles on topics like mesh networks and the possible risks of using Bluetooth, how to get the most out of peer-to-peer communication tools, and a "Blackout Toolbox" that also has a downloadable static html page you can keep in case you can't get online.

Peer-to-peer communications

These tools work best when set up before the shut down. Peer-to-peer communication happens between technology connections that don't require the internet, such as bluetooth or when different devices are connected to a common network router using their WiFi.

Briar

The Briar app runs on Android, and is open source. It uses enctrypted messaging, and was designed with human rights activists, journalists and activitsts in mind. It's also useful for anyone else to have a secure method of communication. It uses the internet when it's available, but can also connect to other devices using local wifi routers or bluetooth.

Jami

Jami is an interesting cross-platform app that's open source and privacy preserving. It tries to find the most direct path for sending data. Users who are on the same local network can communicate with Jami even if they are disconnected from the internet.

Bridgefy

Bridgefy is another messaging app for Android and iPhones, created to preserve communications during an internet shutdown or outage. You will need to have an internet connection to run the set-up, though the first time you turn it on. After that, it works usng bluetooth connections.

Note: The above two apps can use your mobile's battery a bit more highly than standard chat tools.

Silence

Including Silence here, as it doesn't need internet, though does need access to SMS or MMS networks. If that's working, though, you can have message encryption with other Silence App users. It uses the Signal encryption protocol, but unlike the Signal app, it doesnt' require the internet to work (though that means some of the other privacy features of Signal aren't included).

Peer-to-peer file sharing

If the internet is shut down, you can still share photos, videos, documents, some apps, and so forth from device to device, using networks that operate locally (Wifi routers, bluetooth, LAN networks, etc.) Again, having these things set up and tested before the internet is off works best, but needs must.

NitroShare for laptops and desktop machines

NitroShare makes it easy to share files between computers with this software installed that are on a common network. Open source, available for Windows, Mac and Linux, it uses broadcast discovery to find other devices on the local network that have NitroShare installed.

F-droid for Android smalrtphones

The F-Droid app allows you to keep a local Android app store (of apps that allow it) available for sharing through your own Android phone. It's a good way of sharing Briar and other open source software when the internet gets shut off.

Android apps that work on LAN networks

Through your smartphone's built in features

The Witness blog's slightly out-dated post on file sharing in an internet shutdown has some good advice on how to just use the features that come standard in your smartphone, and I'll just include some quotes to those points here:

  • Share files directly with Bluetooth, Wifi Direct, or NFC: "You don’t need to have an internet connection to connect your phone with another nearby device via Bluetooth, Wifi Direct, or Near Field Communication (NFC) (sometimes called Android Beam on older devices). Bluetooth and Wifi Direct are both wireless technologies that can “pair” two devices without another router or access point in between. WiFi Direct provides a wider range and faster data transfer than Bluetooth, but uses up a lot more power. Meanwhile, NFC has a much shorter range (~4cm) and much slower transfer speeds than either Bluetooth or WiFi Direct, but connects faster and uses less power, so can be useful for small transfers when have both devices in your hands."

You will want to be careful who you share access with at this level, and likely turn these things off when not in use as a safety measure.

  • Share files with a wireless drive or via a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN): "A wireless hard drive or flash drive can be used to share files among a team, or multiple people at one time. The wifi drive will typically come with instructions and/or an app for connecting your phone to the drive, and is relatively easy to use. Remember to set a password on the drive for security."

This one requires someone has one of these around, but if so, you can create local file sharing hubs for trusted users.