Lets Talk About: Encrypted Chat App Signal Now Bypasses Censorship In The Middle East


Well earlier this week, the Egyptian government had taken the decision to censor encrypted chat app, Signal in the country. The government had decided to censor Signal’s messaging and voice calling program, but officials didn’t disclose the reasons behind this measure.

Signal is one of the chat applications that offer end-to-end encryption for messages, much like Facebook’s WhatsApp or Messenger. For this reason, such apps are often under scrutiny from governments because of the difficulty to monitor messages exchanged on the network by potential criminals.

On top of encryption, Signal app also offers disappearing messages, which means that texts sent through the service have the potential to self-destruct when the timer is up.

Open Whisper Systems, the developer behind Signal, didn’t take long to solve the issue in Egypt and recently announced that the latest app update comes with support for censorship circumvention in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, where access to the app and the desktop version had also been censored.

The new release makes it virtually impossible to block Signal
The new release includes domain fronting, which is a clever way to trick ISPs and their rules that block access to certain services. Signal is now routing traffic through Google’s CDNs, which means that all messages exchanged on the network now look like requests to Google services. This would mean that if ISPs want to block access to Signal, they would need to censor access to google.com and other services. It would be like blocking the Internet in the country.

All popular services and CDNs, including Google, Amazon S3, Azure, CloudFlare, Akamai and Fastly, can now be used for accessing Signal. Domain fronting in Signal is available for users who have a country code from Egypt or the UAE.

Upcoming versions will also include features for detecting censorship and applying circumvention when users with numbers from other countries visit cities where the censorship was enforced. On the brighter side, the new Android version for Signal also includes support for adding doodles, stickers and text to images.

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