I know the importance of being able to visit blocked site sin China. As an expat who runs a couple of blogs and websites from China (not having to do with China), I know it can be exhausting trying to get stuff done without the proper tools to fight against The GFW. Tracking tools like Google analytics and other Google tools are impossible to run. Websites to buy software are slow, and unreliable, making paying for stuff difficult, and confusing (have you ever had a “click to make final purchase” time out?). And that’s not even talking about missing out on all the social networking and other forms of promotion that are just unavailable from behind The GFW. For me, being able to access these blocked sites is not just about entertainment, it’s about making money.
In the west there are a couple of ways to visit blocked sites. I remember as a kid I used a lot of proxies to get on Myspace at school (Yes, that was quite a while ago when Myspace was actually popular). Proxies were appropriate for that situation. They were free, and any sort of IP exposing risks I was talking would fall upon the schools computer, not my own. If I was caught, an hour of detention after school was as bad as it got.
In China, things are different. Not only are free, open proxies pretty much useless in China, there are a couple of other conditions you have to deal with. If you do find an open proxy that works, you need to know that there are certain risks you’re taking by sharing a server with people you don’t know. Traffic monitoring software is easy to get a hold of these days, and you could be setting yourself up for identity theft by connecting to anonymous proxy servers.
And though the laws in China are pretty lax, some countries are not. Some places like countries in The Middle East actually do pursue those that use IP changing software to access blocked areas of the Internet. I’d venture to say that Thailand and Vietnam may be in the same boat, depending on which sites you’re visiting, and how frequently you do it.
Whatever your location, and whatever the content of the blocked sites is, using a pretty decent IP changing program is a good idea. SSL/OpenVPN is the best kind of program to visit blocked sites in China and other areas of the world that censor the Internet. SSL encryption is the same kind of security feature you see on online shopping websites. OpenVPN is a “tunneling protocol” that requites certificate verification to be able to access information inside the tunnel (only you and the VPN server have this key). On top of this, most SSL/OpenVPN providers won’t keep logs of your online activity, so once your session is over, its like it never happened. No records, no IP footprints, and all the banned material you can shake a stick at.