anti-censorship in network infrastructure

With AntiSec—and attendant censorship countermeasures—in full swing, Telex seemed like an appropriate subject.  In a nutshell, Telex offers a response to online censorship by placing anti-censorship technology into the Internet’s core network infrastructure, rendering it easy to distribute and difficult to detect and prevent. Governments tend to use firewalls in their network to block traffic or access to forbidden sites. Telex is different from previous anti-censorship systems in that it operates within the infrastructure at ISP points and non-blocked portions of the Internet, as opposed to network end points.

This “end-to-middle” proxying makes the system robust against censorship countermeasures. Furthermore, it emphasizes evading detection so that a censor may be circumvented without being alerted, complementing proxy and relay services like Tor. Telex employs and repurposes deep-packet inspection in its anti-censorship measures. Telex also does away with individual encryption keys or IP addresses that need to be communicated to users in advance, since the censor can block the system if it discovers this information. Telex is described, in short, as a “state-level response to state-level censorship” (Telex.cc).

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Tricksters, 50 Days of Lulz, Effecting Change.

On June 26th, LulzSec faded back into the woodwork, ending their hacktivity with “50 days of lulz,” in which they leaked internal data from AOL, AT&T, the FBI, gaming forums, NATO bookshop, and navy.mil, among others. The leak marked the end of the Lulz Boat’s “planned 50 day cruise,” leaving its 6-member crew to “now sail into the distance, leaving behind–we hope–inspiration, fear, denial, happiness, approval, disapproval, mockery, embarrassment, thoughtfulness, jealousy, hate, even love. If anything, we hope we had a microscopic impact on someone, somewhere.  Anywhere” (LulzSec).

This begs the question I’ve been dodging forever: does spectacle, ultimately, constitute impact? What did X, Y, or Z actually do? Apart from gathering numerous followers, supporters, and participants, LulzSec’s antics have impacted the way organizations view cybersecurity, drawing statements from NATO and prompting the Obama administration to propose stricter anti-hacking laws. (This is one year after the Australian government proposed that DDoS and script hacks be termed “cyber-terrorism” following Operation Titstorm, so that their import could be easily recognized. Notably, these attacks were performed in response to ISP-level censoring measures proposed by the government that year.)

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Digital Dead Drops: Public P2P File-Sharing

Public, offline, anonymous file-sharing, now available in crevices near you:

Berlin-based media artist Aram Bartholl started the Dead Drops project while working as an artist-in-residence in NYC in 2010.  Dead Drops functions as a P2P file-sharing network in public spaces, such as this one, where anonymous users can plug their laptops in and out of USB sticks secured in walls, holes, and other nooks and crannies with cement.  The database lists locations of and directions to USB drops worldwide, installed and maintained by anyone who wants to become involved.  The idea comes from traditional “dead drops,” points where information is exchanged between two intelligence agents without them ever meeting face-to-face.  This becomes more unwieldy on public city streets, where information could potentially be shared between thousands of people, making private drops difficult if not impossible (more thoughts on this below).

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