Streisand Silence censorship. Automate the effect.
5 March, 2021 by
Streisand  Silence censorship. Automate the effect.
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The Internet can be a little unfair. It’s way too easy for ISPs, telecoms, politicians, and corporations to block access to the sites and information that you care about. But breaking through these restrictions is tough. Or is it?

Introducing Streisand

  • A single command sets up a brand new Ubuntu 16.04 server running a wide variety of anti-censorship software that can completely mask and encrypt all of your Internet traffic.
  • Streisand natively supports the creation of new servers at Amazon EC2AzureDigitalOceanGoogle Compute EngineLinode, and Rackspace—with more providers coming soon! It also runs on any Ubuntu 16.04 server regardless of provider, and hundreds of instances can be configured simultaneously using this method.
  • The process is completely automated and only takes about ten minutes, which is pretty awesome when you consider that it would require the average system administrator several days of frustration to set up even a small subset of what Streisand offers in its out-of-the-box configuration.
  • Once your Streisand server is running, you can give the custom connection instructions to friends, family members, and fellow activists. The connection instructions contain an embedded copy of the server’s unique SSL certificate, so you only have to send them a single file.
  • Each server is entirely self-contained and comes with absolutely everything that users need to get started, including cryptographically verified mirrors of all common clients. This renders any attempted censorship of default download locations completely ineffective.
  • But wait, there’s more…

More Features

  • Nginx powers a password-protected and encrypted Gateway that serves as the starting point for new users. The Gateway is accessible over SSL, or as a Tor hidden service.
    • Beautiful, custom, step-by-step client configuration instructions are generated for each new server that Streisand creates. Users can quickly access these instructions through any web browser. The instructions are responsive and look fantastic on mobile phones.
    • The integrity of mirrored software is ensured using SHA-256 checksums, or by verifying GPG signatures if the project provides them. This protects users from downloading corrupted files.
    • All ancillary files, such as OpenVPN configuration profiles, are also available via the Gateway.
    • Current Tor users can take advantage of the additional services Streisand sets up in order to transfer large files or to handle other traffic (e.g. BitTorrent) that isn’t appropriate for the Tor network.
    • A unique password, SSL certificate, and SSL private key are generated for each Streisand Gateway. The Gateway instructions and certificate are transferred via SSH at the conclusion of Streisand’s execution.
  • Distinct services and multiple daemons provide an enormous amount of flexibility. If one connection method gets blocked there are numerous options available, most of which are resistant to Deep Packet Inspection.
    • All of the connection methods (including L2TP/IPsec and direct OpenVPN connections) are effective against the type of blocking Turkey has been experimenting with.
    • OpenConnect/AnyConnect, OpenSSH, OpenVPN (wrapped in stunnel), Shadowsocks, and Tor (with obfsproxy and the obfs4 pluggable transport) are all currently effective against China’s Great Firewall.
  • Every task has been thoroughly documented and given a detailed description. Streisand is simultaneously the most complete HOWTO in existence for the setup of all of the software it installs, and also the antidote for ever having to do any of this by hand again.
  • All software runs on ports that have been deliberately chosen to make simplistic port blocking unrealistic without causing massive collateral damage. OpenVPN, for example, does not run on its default port of 1194, but instead uses port 636, the standard port for LDAP/SSL connections that are beloved by companies worldwide.
    • L2TP/IPsec is a notable exception to this rule because the ports cannot be changed without breaking client compatibility

Services Provided

  • L2TP/IPsec using Libreswan and xl2tpd
    • A randomly chosen pre-shared key and password are generated.
    • Windows, OS X, Android, and iOS users can all connect using the native VPN support that is built into each operating system without installing any additional software.
  • Monit
    • Monitors process health and automatically restarts services in the unlikely event that they crash or become unresponsive.
  • OpenSSH
    • An unprivileged forwarding user and SSH keypair are generated for sshuttle and SOCKS capabilities.
    • Windows and Android SSH tunnels are also supported, and a copy of the keypair is exported in the .ppk format that PuTTY requires.
    • Tinyproxy is installed and bound to localhost. It can be accessed over an SSH tunnel by programs that do not natively support SOCKS and that require an HTTP proxy, such as Twitter for Android.
  • OpenConnect / Cisco AnyConnect
    • OpenConnect (ocserv) is an extremely high-performance and lightweight VPN server that also features full compatibility with the official Cisco AnyConnect clients.
    • The protocol is built on top of standards like HTTP, TLS, and DTLS, and it’s one of the most popular and widely used VPN technologies among large multi-national corporations.
      • This means that in addition to its ease-of-use and speed, OpenConnect is also highly resistant to censorship and is almost never blocked.
  • OpenVPN
    • Self-contained “unified” .ovpn profiles are generated for easy client configuration using only a single file.
    • Both TCP and UDP connections are supported.
    • Multiple clients can easily share the same certificates and keys, but five separate sets are generated by default.
    • Client DNS resolution is handled via Dnsmasq to prevent DNS leaks.
    • TLS Authentication is enabled which helps protect against active probing attacks. Traffic that does not have the proper HMAC is simply dropped.
  • Shadowsocks
    • The high-performance libev variant is installed. This version is capable of handling thousands of simultaneous connections.
    • A QR code is generated that can be used to automatically configure the Android and iOS clients by simply taking a picture. You can tag ‘’ on that concrete wall, or you can glue the Shadowsocks instructions and some QR codes to it instead!
    • AEAD support is enabled using ChaCha20 and Poly1305 for enhanced security and improved GFW evasion.
    • The simple-obfs plugin is installed to provide robust traffic evasion on hostile networks (especially those implementing quality of service (QOS) throttling).
  • sslh
    • Sslh is a protocol demultiplexer that allows Nginx, OpenSSH, and OpenVPN to share port 443. This provides an alternative connection option and means that you can still route traffic via OpenSSH and OpenVPN even if you are on a restrictive network that blocks all access to non-HTTP ports.
  • Stunnel
    • Listens for and wraps OpenVPN connections. This makes them look like standard SSL traffic and allows OpenVPN clients to successfully establish tunnels even in the presence of Deep Packet Inspection.
    • Unified profiles for stunnel-wrapped OpenVPN connections are generated alongside the direct connection profiles. Detailed instructions are also generated.
    • The stunnel certificate and key are exported in PKCS #12 format so they are compatible with other SSL tunneling applications. Notably, this enables OpenVPN for Android to tunnel its traffic through SSLDroid. OpenVPN in China on a mobile device? Yes!
  • Tor
    • bridge relay is set up with a random nickname.
    • Obfsproxy is installed and configured with support for the obfs4 pluggable transport.
    • A BridgeQR code is generated that can be used to automatically configure Orbot for Android.
  • UFW
    • Firewall rules are configured for every service, and any traffic that is sent to an unauthorized port will be blocked.
  • unattended-upgrades
    • Your Streisand server is configured to automatically install new security updates.
  • WireGuard
    • Linux users can take advantage of this next-gen, simple, kernel-based, state-of-the-art VPN that also happens to be ridiculously fast and uses modern cryptographic principles that all other highspeed VPN solutions lack.


Please read all installation instructions carefully before proceeding.

Important Clarification

Streisand is based on Ansible, an automation tool that is typically used to provision and configure files and packages on remote servers. Streisand automatically sets up another remote server with the VPN packages and configuration.

Streisand will spin up and deploy another server on your chosen hosting provider when you run on your home machine(e.g. your laptop). Usually, you do not run Streisand on the remote server as by default this would result in the deployment of another server from your server and render the first server redundant (whew!).

In some circumstances advanced users may opt to use the local provisioning mode to have the system running Streisand/Ansible configure itself as a Streisand server. This is a configuration mode best reserved for when it isn’t possible to install Ansible on your home machine or when your connection to a cloud provider is too unreliable for Ansible’s SSH connections.


Complete all of these tasks on your local home machine.

  • Streisand requires a BSD, Linux, or OS X system. As of now, Windows is not supported. All of the following commands should be run inside a Terminal session.
  • Python 2.7 is required. This comes standard on OS X, and is the default on almost all Linux and BSD distributions as well. If your distribution packages Python 3 instead, you will need to install version 2.7 in order for Streisand to work properly.
  • Make sure an SSH key is present in ~/.ssh/
    • If you do not have an SSH key, you can generate one by using this command and following the defaults:
  • Install Git.
    • On Debian and Ubuntu
      sudo apt-get install git
    • On Fedora
      sudo yum install git
    • On OS X (via Homebrew)
      brew install git
  • Install the pip package management system for Python.
    • On Debian and Ubuntu (also installs the dependencies that are necessary to build Ansible and that are required by some modules)
      sudo apt-get install python-paramiko python-pip python-pycurl python-dev build-essential
    • On Fedora
      sudo yum install python-pip
    • On OS X
      sudo easy_install pip
      sudo pip install pycurl
  • Install Ansible.
    • On OS X (via Homebrew)
      brew install ansible
    • On BSD or Linux (via pip)
      sudo pip install ansible markupsafe
  • Install the necessary Python libraries for your chosen cloud provider. If you are using the advanced local provisioning mode or the existing server mode you can skip this section.
    • Amazon EC2
      sudo pip install boto
    • Azure
      sudo pip install msrest msrestazure azure==2.0.0rc5
    • DigitalOcean
      sudo pip install dopy==0.3.5
    • Google
      sudo pip install "apache-libcloud>=1.5.0"
    • Linode
      sudo pip install linode-python
    • Rackspace Cloud
      sudo pip install pyrax
    • Important note if you are using a Homebrew-installed version of Python you should also run these commands to make sure it can find the necessary libraries:
      mkdir -p ~/Library/Python/2.7/lib/python/site-packages
      echo '/usr/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages' > ~/Library/Python/2.7/lib/python/site-packages/homebrew.pth


  1. Clone the Streisand repository and enter the directory.
    git clone && cd streisand

    Or clone from the external mirror if GitHub is blocked.

    git clone && cd streisand
  2. Execute the Streisand script.
  3. Follow the prompts to choose your provider, the physical region for the server, and its name. You will also be asked to enter API information.
  4. Once login information and API keys are entered, Streisand will begin spinning up a new remote server.
  5. Wait for the setup to complete (this usually takes around ten minutes) and look for the corresponding files in the ‘generated-docs’ folder in the Streisand repository directory. The HTML file will explain how to connect to the Gateway over SSL, or via the Tor hidden service. All instructions, files, mirrored clients, and keys for the new server can then be found on the Gateway. You are all done!

Running Streisand to Provision Localhost (Advanced)

If you can not run Streisand in the normal manner (running from your client home machine/laptop to configure a remote server) Streisand supports a local provisioning mode. Simply choose “Localhost (Advanced)” from the menu after running ./streisand.

Note: Running Streisand against localhost can be a destructive action! You will be potentially overwriting configuration files and must be certain that you are affecting the correct machine.

Running Streisand on Other Providers (Advanced)

You can also run Streisand on a new Ubuntu 16.04 server. Dedicated hardware? Great! Esoteric cloud provider? Awesome! To do so, simply choose “Existing Server (Advanced)” from the menu after running ./streisand and provide the IP address of the existing server when prompted.

The server must be accessible using the $HOME/id_rsa SSH Key, and root is used as the connecting user by default. If your provider requires you to SSH with a different user than root (e.g. ubuntu) specify the ANSIBLE_SSH_USER environmental variable (e.g. ANSIBLE_SSH_USER=ubuntu) when you run ./streisand.

Note: Running Streisand against an existing server can be a destructive action! You will be potentially overwriting configuration files and must be certain that you are affecting the correct machine.

Upcoming Features

  • Role isolation and selection, allowing you to choose which daemons and services are installed.
  • Easier setup.

If there is something that you think Streisand should do, or if you find a bug in its documentation or execution, please file a report on the Issue Tracker.

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