How to check if your internet connection is being watched

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Do you ever get the feeling you’re being watched online or that your government might be censoring content?

An app that has recently been released by the Open Observatory of Network Interference project (OONI) hopes to give you a bit more insight into what is happening with your internet connection.

The ooniprobe, as it’s known, is available for free on Android and iOS smartphones and tablets and gives you three important bits of information; whether your internet connection is being censored, whether your connection is being monitored and what speed your network is running at.

This app could get you arrested

Before you head off to your app store to download ooniprobe we need to give you a bit of a warning.

The probe uses an HTTP invalid request line test which could potentially be flagged by your ISP as a hack attempt. The app also collates data that may contain data that can trace the tests back to you. You can opt not to share the information with OONI if you wish.

OONI does say that to its knowledge no user has ever been taken to task for using the platform but that use of the app could constitute espionage in some countries.

Tap for results

As we mentioned there are three tests.

The first will tell you whether access to websites is being restricted. We’ve run this test twice with different results each time. For instance, Adam Oxford found that was being censored while I found that was being censored.

OONI says it is planning to add additional tests for WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

This seems to be a bit of a hit and miss test and we suspect that slow loading times might be the reason some websites come up as “censored”. If however you get a number of “evidence of censorship results” you might have more cause for concern than a wonky connection.

We are able to browse to this website on the same internet connection, actually.

The app is also able to detect if your connection is being interfered with. Running the HTTP invalid request line test will tell you whether there is a “middle box” intercepting your traffic.

The first time we ran this test it came up clean but after running it a few hours later our connection is reportedly being monitored. On an unrelated note, I’m selling my PC and this review phone and burning my router.

The final test will tell you what speed your internet is currently operating at.

Tin-foil hat pending

As we mentioned the app doesn’t seem to be all that accurate what with us getting various results from the censorship tests and the sudden change in our internet being fine and then being monitored.

What this app has done however is made us a bit more cautious about what we do online. As OONI says the data it collects can be used as evidence of internet censorship and networking surveillance.

Once again, be cautious when using this app particularly in countries where activists are targeted by the government.

The app is available for free on Google Play Store and App Store right now.

[Image – CC BY 2.0 Ludovic Bertron]

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.


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