SWEET: Serving the web by exploiting email tunnels

Amir Houmansadr, Wenxuan Zhou, Matthew Caesar, Nikita Borisov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Open communications over the Internet pose serious threats to countries with repressive regimes, leading them to develop and deploy censorship mechanisms within their networks. Unfortunately, existing censorship circumvention systems do not provide high availability guarantees to their users, as censors can easily identify, hence disrupt, the traffic belonging to these systems using today's advanced censorship technologies. In this paper, we propose Serving the Web by Exploiting Email Tunnels (SWEET), a highly available censorship-resistant infrastructure. SWEET works by encapsulating a censored user's traffic inside email messages that are carried over public email services like Gmail and Yahoo Mail. As the operation of SWEET is not bound to any specific email provider, we argue that a censor will need to block email communications all together in order to disrupt SWEET, which is unlikely as email constitutes an important part of today's Internet. Through experiments with a prototype of our system, we find that SWEET's performance is sufficient for Web browsing. In particular, regular Websites are downloaded within couple of seconds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7819465
Pages (from-to)1517-1527
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2017


  • Censorship circumvention
  • Email communications
  • Traffic encapsulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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