I have some friends travelling to China, and they would like to get email, use Skype, and browse the web without the fear of the government looking over their shoulder.

My first thought is to set up an encrypted proxy for them to use for internet browsing and Skype. Perhaps they could also use PGP for sending email.

They have looked at two companies for doing this: MailVault (for encrypted email) and MetroPipe (for secure proxy). Does anyone know more information about these companies?

Also, how can they be sure they are using the encrypted proxy, so they don't accidentally browse with out it? What else should they be thinking about?


Your friends might want to consider what the Chinese government might do if it finds them evading the firewall. Regimes that put up things like the Great Firewall aren't generally very understanding to people who evade their repression.

Your friends have to balance the desire for private communications against the possibility of getting caught and the likely consequences if they are caught.

I don't know why your friends are travelling, but if it's just for tourism, then they may be better off NOT to try to do any of these things, for fear of being falsely accused of espionage. The Chinese court system doesn't work like the US or European courts - it's quite heavily influenced by whatever the government wants it influenced by. So it's not like you can count on a fair trial.

I'd advise not doing any of the above and just hiding in the noise. Unless they are activists, your friends aren't likely to be bothered by the government. Why ask for trouble?

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    Antagonizing government's like China's whether intentional or not is not something to be done lightly. Enjoying being there should probably be more of a priority than being able to hit youtube. – EBGreen Aug 26 '09 at 17:56
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    +1 - Using HTTPS-based webmail is probably safe, but I really wouldn't start trying to "bypass the firewall". Mucking about with a government is a whole lot different than, say, getting in trouble with your corporate or college IT department. – Evan Anderson Aug 26 '09 at 18:12

A comment from the other side of GFW: Take it easy, just buy a VPN service or setup your own VPN server. If you choice buy a VPN service, you'd better make sure that it works behind the GFW. Some famous VPN service provider's domain name and VPN server IP are blocked by GFW.

Regarding to Michael's post, I would like to say the Gov will not waste resources on foreign tourists. Don't worry about the gov putting your friends to jail just because digging a hole on the GFW. Your friends are not ‘valuable' enough for the China Gov, if they are normal tourists.

BTW: It's interesting that I was setting up my own PPTP VPN server from yesterday and got some technical problems, that's why I find this question ;)


If the Chinese government has set his firewall correctly, I doubt they would let your friends access sites allowing them to evade it. And if they did allow, they probably monitor those kind of addresses.

As Michael said, they'd be better not trying to do this.


@$!%ing around with the Chinese government has got to be among the higher ranked items on the all-time "that's a baaad idea" list...

With the resources available to an entire government are they really sure that they want to risk their lives by missing a key ingredient to your solution and having them show up at their doorstep?

If your friends are just travelling for leisure then I agree with others that they should just suck it up and deal with not having access and enjoy their vacation.

If your friends are venturing forth with business in mind or if they need to keep in touch for business reasons then I suggest finding legal ways of doing what they need to do. Contact the embassy or something like that to find out what will pass as acceptable behavior and stick to that.


I would just use a VPN connection for everything I did while I was there. Something like Hamachi would be pretty easy to setup. Another thing to consider would be a full-disk encryption solution so that if your machine was lost, stolen, or seized you would have a litte less to worry about.


encrypted vpn solution --> either pptpd+mschap or openvpn; all traffic goes through this tunnel

of course, you should pay attention to the legal issues of doing this

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