A growing number of software companies are capitalizing on an unexpected business opportunity: Internet censorship.
In countries where governments continue to ramp up Web filtering systems, more people are searching for tools that will allow them to access inaccessible information--and they are willing to pay for them.
Such tools include virtual private networks (VPN), proxy servers and other workarounds that enable users to breach barriers to blocked information online.
VPNs "tunnel" through to servers in a country with no Web controls, encrypting information under an anonymous computer address to conceal private traffic. Proxies also allow unfiltered Internet access but are considered less secure than VPNs.
"The market is growing very rapidly at the moment," said Patrick Lin, who offers a circumvention technology he calls "Puff" to those looking for ways to leap over firewalls. One version is available for free, while another costs $16 to use for a year.
According to Lin, since he launched the application from his California office last June, it has been downloaded more than 500,000 times. Sixty percent of its 60,000 daily users are from China while 40 percent are in Iran, he said.
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