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Jailbreaking the Internet For Freedom's Sake 270

snydeq writes "With so many threats to a free and open Internet, sooner or later, people will need to arm themselves for the fight, writes Deep End's Paul Venezia. 'If the baboons succeed in constraining speech and information flow on the broader Internet, the new Internet will emerge quickly. For an analogy, consider the iPhone and the efforts of a few smart hackers who have allowed anyone to jailbreak an iPhone with only a small downloaded app and a few minutes,' Venezia writes. 'All that scenario would require would be a way to wrap up existing technologies into a nice, easily-installed package available through any number of methods. Picture the harrowing future of rampant Internet take-downs and censorship, and then picture a single installer that runs under Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux that installs tor, tools to leverage alternative DNS servers, anonymizing proxies, and even private VPN services. A few clicks of the mouse, and suddenly that machine would be able to access sites "banned" through general means.'"
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Jailbreaking the Internet For Freedom's Sake

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  • Achilles Heel (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wanzeo ( 1800058 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @03:40PM (#38868141)

    Any alternative internet technology relies on encryption, and as long as courts have to ability to require you to decrypt data upon request, any discussion of workarounds is pointless.

    To really address the real problem, the laws themselves must be the focus.

    • Re:Achilles Heel (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lundse ( 1036754 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @03:46PM (#38868265)


      "Upon request", as you say. "Courts". Ie. within a legal framework, subject to rights, seizure and eventually your own compliance.

      The danger we are trying to avert, is the disappearance of the need for those things. Of course the evildoers can always get a death squad or a court order - but they cannot automatically spy on everyone and aggregate the results, nor keep us from doing and saying what we want.

      That, not immunity from due process, is what we are looking for.

      • Then while we're at it, we should probably double-check just to make sure that the due process really truly is due. Remember that the US DoJ has had a few nasty smears on its track record when it comes to electronic surveillance []. We need a less corruptible set of rules for arbitration in these cases.

        Perhaps an all-knowing artificial intelligence would do the trick...

        • by Lundse ( 1036754 )

          Don't get me wrong - I am all for improving the justice system, fair laws, etc. etc.

          I am just not a fan of trusting either. Especially not the lawmakers - as they are a single point of failure, and easily (and already) bought.

          I would rather live in a world where any and all regimes (however legitimate, fair, corrupt or not they may be) will need to secure me, my cooperation and my property before they can listen in on my conversations, check what I do on my computer or strip away my anonymity.

    • Perhaps more to the point, it has been abundantly demonstrated that your average user doesn't have the slightest ability to distinguish between a trojan and a legitimate application(to be fair, most 'geeks' aren't too much better off, in terms of technical analysis; but at least they sometimes know where to go for advice).

      Court orders are boring and sometimes require public disclosure to get. Spamming the internet with dozens of variants of "PHUCK the MAN Anon-t00lk1t l33t.exe" and "Ultimate untraceable
    • Re:Achilles Heel (Score:5, Insightful)

      by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @03:52PM (#38868365) Homepage

      courts have to ability to require you to decrypt data upon request

      True, but irrelevant. First, caching aside, how many people store their communications? The courts can't force you to do something you can't do. Second, the endpoints are (currently, typically) not encrypted anyway. Third, under SOPA it's not illegal to access the sites, just for DNS to return their IP and for Google (and who?) to list them in search results.

      The biggest hurdle is that Tor sucks and most people won't want to use their bandwidth to act as a router for anonymous traffic.

      I do agree with your conclusion though: laws should be the focus.

      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        The biggest problem with TOR is: how do you know you're really anonymous? How do you know where DNS really pointed you when you downloaded that exe from How do you know what 0-days you've hit while browsing that pwnnd your browser, even without js or flash? (And there have been TOR vulnerabilities.) How do you know what you're *really* running?

        There doesn't seem to be any way to rely on a technological meansure to protect you from a corrupt government - too much firepower stacked against

      • most people won't want to use their bandwidth to act as a router for anonymous traffic

        or worse, be an exit node for anonymous traffic.

      • Third, under SOPA it's not illegal to access the sites, just for DNS to return their IP and for Google (and who?) to list them in search results.

        Check the fine print in SOPA - it's not even illegal for Googel to list them in search results. It's just illegal (given the requisite court orders) to provide CLICKABLE LINKS to them.

        Putting the URL in out as plaintext would be perfectly fine....

    • Re:Achilles Heel (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2012 @04:00PM (#38868477)

      There are technologies like ssh and ssl where the end user has zero clue what the session key is.

      • Mod Parent up! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @04:17PM (#38868715)
        I was just about to make the very same point myself. It's called Perfect Forward Secrecy []. Use protocols in which the users do not have the ability to decrypt content after the session ends. Courts can't require you to do the impossible.
        • Re:Mod Parent up! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jamstar7 ( 694492 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @04:28PM (#38868861)

          Courts can't require you to do the impossible.

          Yes, they can. And no matter how much you try to prove you can't, they can still charge you for noncompliance to their orders. It's called contempt of court, and the judge can make you rot in a cell until you do comply. No jury, no bail, no nothing.

          • by gknoy ( 899301 )

            In the case where you've taken technical measures to ensure that it's impossible, I wonder if you'd be able to use an expert witness to show that it is indeed impossible.

            • There is no requirement that I know of for a judge to listen to expert witnesses on a contempt charge. It's not part or party of the case the judge is hearing. Contempt of court comes into play during a trial for something else. It's how a judge forces testimony out of a witness that refuses to testify. Ignore a subpoena, get hit with contempt of court. Wanna sit on the witness stand and go to sleep instead of testifying? Contempt of court. Refuse to give evidence in an ongoing trial? Contempt of co
              • Interesting. The use of effective countermeasures becomes, under the table, a default conviction for any IP crime, with an indeterminate sentence. All under the false label "contempt of court".
          • Courts can't require you to do the impossible.

            Yes, they can. And no matter how much you try to prove you can't, they can still charge you for noncompliance to their orders. It's called contempt of court, and the judge can make you rot in a cell until you do comply. No jury, no bail, no nothing.

            Ummm, contempt of court charges can be appealed. It happens all the time.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      How about an open wifi mesh network?

      • Soon as you find a way to route between a few million nodes without central management and in a highly dynamic network.
      • I've been experimenting with a few commodity routers (that can support open-wrt or dd-wrt) for just such a purpose. Do you have any good references? I'm envisioning some roof-top and tree-mounted self-contained set of router/repeaters than can run off a small battery and solar charger...

      • by sohmc ( 595388 )

        I seem to remember there was some slashdot story with just this premise. I can't seem to find it though...

        I think this would a be a great "internet alternative" but nowhere near robust as the current internet. We would need to find a way where the average user (e.g. some dumb fool) to connect to it and get the information they want.

        However, I don't see legit businesses (e.g. banks, stores, etc) using this.

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *

      It's not so much a technological problem as it is a social one. It's not a question of whether you can bypass the blocks or not, it's more a question of whether you're willing to suffer the consequences if you get CAUGHT with illegal bypass/proxy/VPN software. Many people are willing to TALK freedom, a much smaller number are willing to get the shit kicked out of them by a cop or get thrown into jail or prison for a few years for actually EXERCISING it.

      There will always be ways to bypass oppression, but wil

    • Courts are rather slow, and not very secretive - the suspect will know about the efforts against him. You can't use mass-monitoring if you have to ask everyone to decrypt their data for you.
    • by MartinG ( 52587 )

      I have much less of a problem being asked by a court to decrypt data than being censored abrtitrarily at the say-so of random large media companies.

    • open wifi + new p2p internet protocol with no dependence on any existing internet infrastructure or dns (no encryption required)

      much more difficult to control if there's no obvious target

      all it would take is an app for android and iphone that turns the phone into a wifi repeater, as well as a browser that uses a new protocol (developed by whoever makes the app first, but i would suggest simpler than the existing tiered tcp)

      gateways to the internet could be through translator software (also from any
    • data as courts see it (because they are slow and unwieldy buckets of inertia) exists on your hard disk.

      if encrypted traffic is the standard, the norm, the accepted and taken for granted way things "just are", then you could run tor and nobody would have any idea.

      the problem with the current internet is that it's run for so long without encryption. as technology marches on, hopefully encryption will be on by default.

      governments want security as well as control. perhaps we can tip the balance one way rather

  • by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @03:41PM (#38868159) Homepage Journal

    it's not about connectivity, it's about accessibility: presence in the search results, being properly indexed.

    There could be million free pages under any super-free Internet. What's the point of it if nothing could be found?

    Main battle is going to be around google search results and there have been several front pages on that: content providers are already fighting with google.

    If a movie is getting NC-17 rating, forget about profit (in this case most rightfully so, that's Islam speaking).

    If a website is accessible only via Tor, forget about business.

    Imagine isntead of banning megaupload website were still accessible through Tor or some other kind of superfreeandsecretnet. Do you really think Dotcom would be leaving in 22M mansion?

  • desired outcome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by prgrmr ( 568806 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @03:44PM (#38868205) Journal
    I would go further and suggest that this is a desired outcome by both governments and content holders: to drive the subversives, the perceived anarchists, and in short, all of the non-mainstream consumer users of the Internet off of it into their own "underground". This keeps the nominal Internet "market" sanitized from both subversive content and disruptive behavior, as well as segregates the undesirables into their own sandbox where keeping an eye on them may not be easier, but lowers the degree of urgency for doing so.
    • Sort of a 'Cocteau Plan' for the internet.

      "AT&T was the only ISP to survive the Internet Big Media Wars. Now all ISPs are AT&T!"
  • Alternative (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @03:44PM (#38868217)
    I can see this tightening of regulation creating an all new internet that is build amongst non-profit communities and connected together in fashions so that no one owns the transmission means. Unlike today's internet which is essentially owned by oligarchy consisting of AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon (i.e. Big Telecom) communities may end up either laying their own transmission lines or use multipoint wireless. This might just be the tipping point at which the pricing and collusion of Big Telecom leads to their ultimate demise and irrelevance.
    • ISP's should be forced to either A) sell their infrastructure business to the people or a single private entity (government, which sucks from a privacy standpoint) or B) split off to a separate corporate entity (privacy might be better but competition is difficult when there is limited physical ways to connect and multiple suppliers; one supplier seems a better option) so that their infrastructure cannot be leveraged as part of their services package and all companies are on fair footing when it comes to ba
  • by Samantha Wright ( 1324923 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @03:49PM (#38868321) Homepage Journal

    Oh god, it burns.

    ...but in all seriousness: okay, Mr. Venezia, you can jailbreak it. Just be careful you don't brick it. No one needs a bricked Internet. While you're at it, can you install a SIM unlock, too? I hear the service provider that the Internet comes with is terrible.

  • So yeah... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lundse ( 1036754 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @03:49PM (#38868325)

    ...that is what Moglen et al have been saying all along: don't trust the lawmakers and people in power to make you free. Guarantee your freedoms one by one, by building them - free speech, anonymity, etc. can be engineered!

  • as Tor's own site will say, having the software is only one step. you have to change your habits.
    it also requires the entry and exit to be trusted.

    • it also requires the entry and exit to be trusted.

      No it doesn't. The whole point of TOR is that the only way to determine who is doing what is for the nodes to collude with one another (although there are traffic analysis attacks that ISPs can do if they can see all the traffic through all the nodes).

  • VPNs [] are private by definition.

  • Kind of difficult to connect to servers that are unplugged and sitting in a guarded evidence closet somewhere.
    • Tor hidden services are pretty hard to locate. Of course, a hidden service that operates on the scale of Megaupload will be pretty easy to locate...
  • by randizzle3000 ( 1276900 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @04:09PM (#38868595) Homepage Journal
    The other problem is that people might stop creating these great sites/services because you can't "just browse" to them or venture capitalists won't fund the startup. Anonymity and an underground internet is useless if all the cool stuff is just taken down (as opposed to blocked) or even worse, never created in the first place. For example, can we secretly get to megaupload now? What about it's competitors that have disabled file sharing?
    • Wait, the internet is useless if you can't commercialize it? Baloney.

  • It must be nice to be so retardedly rich that you can be ignorant as hell like this fellow and not have to give a shit.
  • ie, filled with errors, out of sequence, dropped and maybe even faked packets (I know, that goes beyond what UDP is supposed to do).

    but assume that the network is evil and fake and someone is always trying to do bad things (listen, change, realtime trap-on, etc) and write your layered app protocols on top of THAT assumption.

    its a good assumption, in fact. if you assume your transport is bad and your app fills the gap to make the end to end connection, *now*, reliable and trustable, then you can deal with both honest and less-than-honest physical and logical transports (ethernet, atm, cable, dsl, etc).

    the problem is that our protocols and apps have assumed no mess-ups internally in our networks. this is no longer true anymore! the evil bastards have gotton a hint of how cool our internet toy is and they want to pervert it to suit their will.

    if we don't start taking a defensive posture on our network, we will LOSE control (arguable we have already) of our networks.

  • The money will always be in the "mainstream", or the particular mainstream of every place and time, by definition.

    Megaupload exists because it makes money. It makes money because millions of people watch movies and download shit off it, not because it makes a few hackers "free" to share stuff.

    No mainstream = no money = not *existing* in any noticeable capacity.

  • Picture the harrowing future of rampant Internet take-downs and censorship, and then picture a single installer that runs under Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux that installs tor, tools to leverage alternative DNS servers, anonymizing proxies, and even private VPN services. A few clicks of the mouse, and suddenly that machine would be able to access sites "banned" through general means.'"

    Kind of breath-taking when you contemplate it.

    Given that the "War on Sharing" is just getting started and will follow th

  • by Kurt Granroth ( 9052 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @04:38PM (#38869015)

    The problem with this approach is that it focuses on the end user's connectivity and not the effect such laws would have on the web sites themselves. Who cares if you have unfettered access to all sites when the sites don't exist due to legal threats.

    Let's take Slashdot as an example. Say something like SOPA/PIPA/ACTA/etc eventually succeeds and it becomes very easy to shut down any website with just a suggestion of copyright infringement on the site. That is, if somebody posted a link to The Pirate Bay in the comments, then somebody else could get Slashdot as a whole effectively shut down as a result. And yes, that's what could happen with laws such as SOPA.

    What do you think happens to sites like Slashdot in an environment like this? The only reasonable response would be to drastically limit, if not eliminate, all user comments.

    Meanwhile, the Slashdot user deftly installs the circumvention software and is easily able to get to Slashdot... but who cares? Without the comments, the entire site has only marginal value.

    That's why circumvention software is only a tiny part of a workaround and one that will eventually fail. It's the sites that need to be protected, not the access.

  • ... aren't in home desktop machines or laptops. They're in 4GWhatever smartphones. Those are what's being pushed now. Your nifty installer might work on a desktop or laptop or even one of the few surviving netbooks, but let's see it work on a smartphone and still have plenty of storage space to do useful stuff with. And be prepared to pay out the ass for your data plan.

    And what you gonna do with that pirated data you do manage to download onto your home machine? What's to stop antivirus makers from ad
  • by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @04:44PM (#38869083)

    And yet we have people running covert operations to let corn rot and then distill the runoffs. They have to hideout in the woods to perform one of the simplest operations you can do with fire and liquid. The laws are justified and sold, claiming that they protect people from bad alcohol, when we all know it is about tax revenue.

    In 1914, the federal government went on record outlawing a weed that covered the banks of the Potomac. A huge cadre of policemen have since been converted to an army to prevent people from talking stupid and getting the munchies. The claim is that marijuana is a "gateway" drug, when we all know that the taxed alcohol the authorities allow is the real gateway drug.

    Anyone that calls these regimes into question is labeled with an outlaw, rebel, or some other less than "proper society" title. Any politician that claims that it is a matter of personal liberty is called "bat shit crazy" when they aren't being completely ignored.

    Why, oh why, would anyone think that the powers that be would allow an alternative internet? "If you're on the alternative internet, it must be because of child pornography!!! Or you might be a terrorist! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!" The excuse to bust down doors to lock people up for talking in chatrooms is prepared already, and the people have been conditioned to swallow it already.

  • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @04:45PM (#38869089)

    While circumventing censorship is better than nothing this is not technical problem but a legal one. We need to stand up against censorship on the streets, not on some dark unknown meshnet.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @04:49PM (#38869147) Homepage

    If it weren't for pirated content, few people would need big hard drives. I mean, really, a terabyte on the desktop?

    It's really hard to fill a big hard drive without pirating stuff. I was just looking at my hard drive space consumption. I have on it:

    • A copy of the disk of every computer I've owned back to 1997.
    • Source code archives for everything I've written since then.
    • Backups of all my web sites, including the databases.
    • A MySQL database of every business in the US and UK. (This is a purchased product.)
    • A MySQL database summarizing every SEC filing since 2000.
    • All the records for our DARPA Grand Challenge vehicle, including source code archives, data logs and video.
    • Cygwin, with most of the GNU development tools.
    • Autodesk Inventor Suite, which is about 2 DVDs worth of software. (This is a benefit of a TechShop membership, incidentally.)
    • Multiple versions of mechanical designs in Inventor format. (One copy of one design is 36MB.)
    • Short animations from my days in physically based animation software, with all the files used to create them.
    • 12 years of email.

    This all adds up to about 200GB.

    If it weren't for piracy, the hard drive industry would be a lot smaller.

    • Add to that all the photos you take, maybe your home videos too and it's easy to get up to a TB - or more. Buy yourself a PVR that records HD content and even 2TB fills up pretty quick if you don't keep on top of cleaning up content after you've watched it.

      Maybe your post should be updated to: If it weren't for video, the hard drive industry would be a lot smaller.

      • by WiPEOUT ( 20036 )

        What he said. Photos alone runs into several hundred gigabytes and I've only been into photography a few years, and only started shooting RAW relatively recently. With terabytes of storage affordable, I'm now keeping high-quality video from events that I wouldn't have been able to keep before.

  • by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @05:04PM (#38869327)

    The *AA's have declared war on the free internet, and governments everywhere are getting on board with that after seeing the Arab Spring use its tools to overthrow their governments and generally stop doing what they're told. We saw with the SOPA protest how effective we can be when we work together, because there are vastly more of us than there are of them.

    What we need to do now is to take it to the next level and take the fight to them. Revising copyright is probably a good place to start because there is a greater degree of public awareness about it now. If we push for the complete abolition of the notion of copyright, and push very hard, then the *AA's will be put on the defensive.

    More generally we need to expunge government of the clueless, supine creatures who lay down for all this nonsense as well as the pure evil who are screwing us with full awareness of the damage they're doing. With the advent of additive manufacturing this same set of issues is about to spread to every industry, and it's going to intensify with those larger stakes. We can see a new era of human freedom or unprecedented repression, but we won't tilt the balance in our favor unless we all fight hard.

  • Even saying they're "uncomfortable with the Internet" is to drink the Koolaide. The long-term and repeated historical trend has been that they're uncomfortable with sales, and this time the threat that people will shove more money down their gullets than the Hollywood companies can handle, is just as grave, and they are fighting it just as tenaciously.

    Part of me wants to say there's one difference, which is that this time they are winning and achieving the goal of lowering their revenue -- driving people t

  • The internet now threatens the world's government-corporations and so of course, attempts will be made to curtail it. This will inevitably result in a "pirate" internet similar to "pirate" radio. Servers will be set up offshore, on satellites, over the borders and in the woods, on thousands of buildings and in the powerlines. Underground transmission, actually a very old technology, will make a comeback ( Pirate internetworks will shift and bob and weave and nev

  • Now, why are you insulting those respectable and successful savannah dwelling primates by comparing them to a lower life form?

  • by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @08:09PM (#38871657) Homepage

    Darkneting won't save us. They can deep packet inspect, or block service to TOR nodes, or simply disconnect anyone who tries. They can - will- turn the internet very quickly into an old fashioned telephone system, with your real name required and full tracking on at all times. Bandwidth throttling, for instance, while ostensibly to stop "hogs" and kill Netflix, is very useful to discourage people from running TOR nodes. Hard to run encrypted virtual pipes when they constrict at will.

    They can pass any law they like and criminalize any trick we can come up with. The spooks behind this are not uninformed, and read the same boards we do.

    Young people, 30 and below in age, are not concerned. They have never, if you think about it, lived in a free world. They laid face-down on the hallway floors in high school while giant thugs let dogs sniff their crotches, looking for drugs like aspirin and Dayquil. They have been fingerprinted, watched, recorded, and monitored to the point where their school-issued laptops were taking pictures of them in their underwear for years. They have never lived in a world where such things are insane; this is everyday life to them. As they grew up, they have to give pee tests, saliva tests, stop for random searches by cops, swear to moral turpitude, sign up to homeowner and condo associations that pretty much are prison systems with nicer plumbing, and submit every movement on the internet and in person to GPS/IP-registerd locations. They don't understand why privacy is important; they are indoctrinated by the sheer banality of the evil. People who live by sewage filtration plants don't smell the shit, and young people don't smell the loss of their liberties.

    Solutions have to be hardware based combined with newer communication tech. Simple WiFi with encryption won't work; they'll make it illegal.

    Ideas: go to LEDs in a tube to transmit optical signals over short distances, home to home, building to building. Infrared lasers to act as backbones to a TOR-like network that does-not-interface with the old internet. The old internet is dead, people; they commercialized it, gave to the corporations and the police states of the world.

    Wild ideas: finally solve the problem of radio interference- it is a hardware/software limitation, not a real one. Thousands can transmit and receive over a single frequency if we solve this riddle, and then bandwidth is effectively infinite enough that TOR-like radio mesh networks could actually work with low latency and high throughput, with encryption.

    3-D printing of custom network nodes that do not conform to the government's ideas of MAC addresses and complete surveillance. We'll need our own custom 3-D printers as well; they will easily require mass-produced printers to ID themselves in the products.

    Well out there ideas: Quantum entanglement as a communications method. Don't laugh too hard; think about it. A transmission system that doesn't actually transmit through the air, but instead transmits at a distance without any detectable means. It can be done; I'm not the genius to do it. Believe it that the military will do it if it can be done. We all can do it too.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann