Valley overcomes ban on social media via VPNs

People in the Kashmir Valley have been defying the government’s one-month ban on internet and access to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter by downloading ‘virtual private networks’

Photo by Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

NH Web Desk

Kashmiris claim the state government has suspended internet connectivity in the Valley around 30 times in the last seven years. Following the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani last year, the internet was shut down for three months. And late in April, the government once again decided to shut down internet and access to 22 social networking sites in the Valley so as to prevent dissemination of “mischievous information” that could incite people.

But local app developers and software specialists have come up with steps to overcome the ban by apparently using the available 2G connection itself. Several reports now claim that they have improvised and innovated alternate messenger services like ‘Signal’ and ‘Pipe’, created alternate chatrooms like ‘Kashmir Connect’ and ‘Kashmir Chat’ and, above all, taken recourse to VPN (virtual private network) to secure their devices and use servers based abroad to access sites banned by the government.

What is VPN?

A virtual private network (VPN) is a network that is constructed using public wires—usually the internet—to connect to a private network, such as a company's internal network. There are a number of systems that enable you to create networks using the internet as the medium for transporting data.

VPNs allow users to securely access a private network and share data remotely through public networks. Much like a firewall protects your data on your computer, VPNs protect it online.

The internet also provides directions on how to install VPN connections and furnishes step-by-step directions:

  1. Open the Network Connections window and click Create a new connection.
  2. Select Connect to the network at my workplace, and click Next.
  3. Select Virtual Private Network connection, and click Next.
  4. Enter a name for the connection, and click Next.

Jammu and Kashmir had 1.13 crore cellular subscribers as on December 2016. Significantly, internet penetration in the state is higher than the all-India average. There are 28.62 internet subscribers per 100 people in the state compared to the all-India figure of 25.37.

A report in the Kashmir Reader said on Tuesday: “A VPN or a virtual private network helps to connect through a secure network over a public network or private network. A VPN secures a user connection through encryption and security protocols and protects the identity of the connection. VPN allows users to remain secure online and also enables them to access content or websites that are otherwise blocked.

According to Faheem Tariq, an SEO analyst with a Kashmir-based IT firm, VPN allows users to bypass the computer or mobile’s IP address. “Even if a VPN is blocked, there are various other VPNs, browsers and browser plug-ins that can help users access from a remote network the blocked social media networks,” he said.

“Asif, a resident of Chanapora and a school teacher by profession, is awaiting the installation of broadband service at his home due to feasibility issues. I am surfing the internet these days from a friend’s network. I am also learning about secure applications and alternatives to defy the ban,” he said.

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