Adversarial Detection of Censorship Measurements


The arms race between Internet freedom technologists and censoring regimes has catalyzed the deployment of more sophisticated censoring techniques and directed significant research emphasis toward the development of automated tools for censorship measurement and evasion. We highlight Geneva as one of the recent advances in this area. By training a genetic algorithm such as Geneva inside a censored region, we can automatically find novel packet-manipulation-based censorship evasion strategies. In this paper, we explore the resilience of Geneva in the face of censors that actively detect and react to Geneva’s measurements. Specifically, we develop machine learning (ML)-based classifiers and leverage a popular hypothesis-testing algorithm that can be deployed at the censor to detect Geneva clients within two to seven flows, i.e., far before Geneva finds any working evasion strategy. We further use public packet-capture traces to show that Geneva flows can be easily distinguished from normal flows and other malicious flows (e.g., network forensics, malware). Finally, we discuss some potential research directions to mitigate Geneva’s detection.