Jigsaw, the security incubator owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, has just rolled out a tool that lets users bypass sites that are blocked by repressive governments.
How it works: Intra creates an encrypted connection between an activist’s Android phone and DNS servers (the databases which act like a phone book to translate the website names we know into the IP addresses where they’re actually hosted). Intra hides DNS requests so that internet service providers (ISPs)—and governments—don’t know which website a user is trying to access and so can’t block it.
Why it matters: DNS manipulation is often used by repressive regimes to cut off information and to redirect traffic away from politically problematic websites. When users type in a banned domain name, DNS manipulation can block the site or even redirect them to a different (government-friendly) site, for example. China and Iran, among many others, have blacklists of blocked domains that citizens are unable to access easily. Intra will let them access this banned information without fear of prosecution.
Does it work? Jigsaw has already tested the app with a small group of activists in Venezuela, where it quickly spread through word of mouth, according to CNET. It was released on Google’s Play store yesterday.