The simplest way to describe what Psiphon does is to help Internet users to get around censorship systems that are in place. Many countries around the world have censorships in place that block their citizens from accessing certain website or online services. China is one such culprit, but there are many other countries that would be classified as enemies of a free Internet.
But even in completely free countries, there are many places where content filtering is in place. Some examples are college campuses and accommodation, restaurants and coffee shops, workplaces and many free WiFi hotspots. Sometimes the restrictions are just in place to stop abusive usage like heavy file downloads.
In other cases, there might be very legitimate security reasons, for example in financial companies.
However, there are many times when it is just plain stupid like some colleges stopping social media access in certain places. Fortunately, there is a very simple solution that is free to use to get around such censorship.
On this page, you’ll learn exactly how to get set up with Psiphon, what it does and doesn’t do and what platforms you can use it on.
Psiphon Installation Instructions
The process to download Psiphon for PC is very simple really. Despite the fact that the tool does a huge amount of stuff for your Internet connection, it doesn’t actually require much IT expertise. If you’ve ever downloaded and installed an app before then you are more than qualified.
Just follow these simple steps:
- Head over to the Psiphon website and download the latest version for Windows
- A small exe file will download to your computer
- You’re best off to save this to your applications folder directly
- Launch the psiphon.exe file
- And that’s it, you’re ready to go.
We didn’t exaggerate when we said that it doesn’t take much to get set up. Once it launches it will automatically activate. It’s simple to turn on and off, but there are a few settings to keep in mind.
For most people, just using the fastest location is going to be the best option. Its main purpose is to get around content filters and not to provide privacy, so the location you connect to is not that important. More on that in the following sections.
Psiphon System Requirements
The application doesn’t have many requirements for your operating system. You’ll learn more about other platform availability, but these are the Windows systems that are supported:
- Windows 10
- Windows 8 (desktop)
- Windows 7
- Windows Vista
- Windows XP
If you download Psiphon for windows it is one exe file for all of the above versions. You don’t have to worry about getting different versions. If you’re still in the dark ages with an older version, then you won’t be able to use the app.
From a hardware perspective, there isn’t anything special to mention either. If one of the above OS versions installs on the computer, then you’re good to go. And of course, you do need an Internet connection as well.
What Is Psiphon?
As already mentioned it is a tool that modifies your standard Internet connection to connect to a series of servers using tunnelling technology, VPN and proxies. As a result, all your traffic is hidden from the eyes of any censoring or traffic filtering systems.
In some countries, this is a normal part of life. You simply won’t be able to access certain types of websites, including sports, news or foreign government websites. But this also happens in workplaces and college campuses in Europe and the US.
What Psiphon for PC does it create a discrete tunnel that cannot be penetrated by such censorship systems. All your web traffic is hidden and you’ll be able to access pretty much anything.
It’s important to mention though that while this provides security from hackers, it is not a viable option to protect yourself from government spy agencies. Their hacking powers are infinitely greater, so don’t rely on it for that.
Who Created It?
The original version was created by the so-called Citizen Lab based at the Toronto University. It was more robust and simpler to use system than what had existed up to that point. Proxy SW systems and chains had been around for a while but usually involved some IT skills to get fully set up.
Anonymizer and Safe Web were such options available, and Psiphon basically built on those to come up with a much simpler open source solution.
Today, Psiphon Inc. is the organization that maintains the code and has brought it all the way to its third version now. These days it’s a cloud-based tunnelling system that is still free of charge.
There are some paid features that you can unlock, but we’ll get into that a bit further down.
What Is It Mainly Used For?
Some people start using Psiphon because they think it will help protect them from spying eyes in governments. Unfortunately, it will only provide limited protection from high tech spying and hacking.
Its main purpose is to just get past content filters that might be set at a country-wide level or just in your location. But why are such filtering systems in place?
In Europe and North America, you will mostly find them in workplaces, colleges and other freely accessible WiFi hotspots. In some cases, it’s for security reasons. And in others, it’s about stopping people from using up huge bandwidth or accessing inappropriate content.
But then there are also countries where huge restrictions are in place to control what their citizens are able to access. Some of these countries are North Korea, China, Vietnam, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.
But with this simple tool, you will be able to bypass such filters immediately.
Does It Provide Security?
SSH is one of the leading encryption standards used online. If you’ve ever bought stuff online, then chances are that your payment details were sent using SSH. It’s secure enough to stop most small to medium scale hackers. But large organizations like the NSA and CIA are known to have the capability of hacking such connections
Psiphon uses SSH for all connections to its cloud-based servers, so you do get a very good and secure setup. There is also the option to use their VPN servers. This is probably the more secure option to use, but again, is not completely impenetrable to government agencies.
For most censorship systems these secure connections will be more than enough. It’s unlikely that content filtering systems are going to be hooked up to NSA size supercomputers.
Does It Provide Privacy?
The organization behind the tool has never made any claims about privacy protection. So, the best thing is to expect that your privacy is not fully protected from all types of spying and hacking.
Now, in order to use the service, you don’t have to register and the system doesn’t collect any data about your IP address. However, there is some usage logging including your region and location, page views and the client version you use.
This information is shared with commercial partners. And that is how ads are created and displayed in the free versions. So, bottom line is that it should not be seen as a privacy tool.
If you need absolute privacy then looking at different VPN options is going to be a better solution. There are providers out there where their servers do not collect any data or logs whatsoever. So, even if there was a warrant to get your usage data, there wouldn’t be anything there to share.
Such VPN providers are also good for getting around censorship, but you could always combine multiple options.
What Platforms Is It Available On?
With the exception of Linux and Mac OS the tool is available on the most popular operating systems. The Psiphon app is available on both Android and iOS so that covers the majority o the smartphone and tablet market. Psiphon for PC installation is also available and the instructions to get set up are above.
Overall, they achieve the same thing, but there are some subtle differences between them that we will get to in the next section.
The app versions are available on the App Store and Google Play. But you can also choose to directly download the apk for Android. If you have a problem accessing the download website, then you can also email them to ask for the tool to be emailed to you.
For iOS there is also a browser available that automatically channels everything to the Psiphon servers. If you don’t want to have all your traffic go through Psiphon then this is a great solution.
Are There Differences Between Platforms?
The Psiphon app is a little bit different to the Windows version in that it allows you disable ads by going for a paid pro version (more on this below). The interface is very simple and essentially all you need to worry about is turning it on and off.
The ads are a way to provide some revenue to the developers and keeping the system up and running. If you like the tool, then why not check out the ads from time to time and click on some.
On the smartphones, you’ll also see a small icon on the top info bar to allow you to see whether the service is connected or not. It’s a nice way to avoid having to switch to the app every time you want to check your status.
Other than that, the systems all do the same thing. You can check your usage logs and if necessary upgrade through a paid subscription.
Free vs Paid Features
You might be wondering how to use Psiphon without ads popping up. On the apps they are not too intrusive, and it’s a good way to support the service and the developers of this free tool. But if you find that a bit too annoying then you can upgrade to the pro version.
This is done through an in-app purchase and is a monthly recurring fee. There are multiple options, and the main difference is the maximum connection speed. This is restricted to an extent to avoid abuse of the service. If everyone started using it for heavy downloads, then it would quickly become unusable,
Psiphon for PC doesn’t have this same set up. It just loads and sits in the background.
All of the monthly subscriptions come with a 30 day free trial. So, it’s a great way to see how much better the speed is and whether it will be worth the fees. With the pro version you can increase the 2Mbps max speed and bring that up to 5Mbps.
The top speed version will cost $9.99 per month and can really be worth it if you do a lot of browsing on sites that are restricted.
Connection Speed Restrictions
The basic connection speed is 2Mbps. For browsing websites that’s more than enough really. Especially if you just need it to get to sites that are filtered in your location.
But you can speed that up to 5Mbps by signing up to a monthly service fee. This all might seem like it’s very slow, and if you need something high speed to access video streaming then you might need to consider a VPN client instead. It’ll work in a very similar way and get you the same results. But as a free tool, you won’t go far wrong with setting this up.
At this stage you should have all the information you need to work out whether you need Psiphon or not. You’ll understand what it’s great at doing, which is getting around content filters. And you have information on the limitations around privacy.
It’s a free tool with no requirements for any expert IT knowledge. If you find yourself regularly unable to access certain information on the internet, then just give it a try. Chances are you’ll be good to go within just a few minutes.