Thanks to NickM for prodding me to post these interesting excerpts from New Scientist magazine (which did, alas, climb aboard the AGW bandwagon awhile back. So is it reliable now, and on this topic?). Please click the title for the rest of the New Scientist article, and for links embedded therein.
Meshnet activists rebuilding the internet from scratch
Tech – 08 August 2013 – New Scientist
Worried about the NSA snooping on your email? Maybe you need to start creating your own personal internet
THE internet is neither neutral nor private, in case you were in any doubt. The US National Security Agency can reportedly collect nearly everything a user does on the net, while internet service providers (ISPs) move traffic according to business agreements, rather than what is best for its customers. So some people have decided to take matters into their own hands, and are building their own net from scratch.
Across the US, from Maryland to Seattle, work is underway to construct user-owned wireless networks that will permit secure communication without surveillance or any centralised organisation. They are known as meshnets and ultimately, if their designers get their way, they will span the country.
Dan Ryan is one of the leaders of the Seattle Meshnet project, where sparse coverage already exists thanks to radio links set up by fellow hackers. Those links mean that instead of communicating through commercial internet connections, meshnetters can talk to each other through a channel that they themselves control.
Each node in the mesh, consisting of a radio transceiver and a computer, relays messages from other parts of the network. [ ... ]
While these projects are just getting off the ground, a mesh network in Catalonia, Spain, is going from strength to strength. Guifi was started in the early 2000s by Ramon Roca, an Oracle employee who wanted broadband at his rural home. The local network now has more than 21,000 wireless nodes, spanning much of Catalonia. As well as allowing users to communicate with each other, Guifi also hosts web servers, videoconferencing services and internet radio broadcasts, all of which would work if the internet went down for the rest of the country. [ ... ]
After the extent of the NSA’s clandestine PRISM program was revealed, privacy advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation urged users to start using relatively simple email encryption programs like Pretty Good Privacy and GNU Privacy Guard. But even those can be daunting to set up. A better idea would be a decentralised network that relies on encryption by default.
This is the case with Hyperboria, the virtual layer that underpins meshnet efforts in the US. Hyperboria is a virtual meshnet because it runs through the existing internet, but is purely peer-to-peer.
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Instead of letting other computers connect to you through a shared IP address which anyone can use, cjdns [software] only lets computers talk to one other after they have verified each other cryptographically. That means there is no way anyone can be intercepting your traffic.
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Web services like Gmail, for example, let you log in using an encrypted connection. But when you send an email it leaves Google’s encrypted garden and hits the open web in clear text for anyone to read. With Hyperboria’s peer-to-peer connections, every single link in the chain of communication is fully encrypted. Intermediaries that handle traffic cannot even see what kind of traffic it is, let alone read any email.
[ ... ]
Into the darknet
Visions of a decentralised internet come with a seedier side – the darknet. One way to access it is through the anonymising routing service Tor, which lets a user find hidden web pages that have .onion addresses, rather than IP addresses. But anonymisation like this can facilitate otherwise unacceptable activities. [ ... ]