Oppressive regimes and freedom minded computer talent are inherent enemies. Today they are poised to launch their cat-and-mouse game of cyber-intelligence into a new age. Contests between information control and information trafficking are getting more fierce. Tools to move information around under adversary radar are a key element. Private or anonymous peer-to-peer network system systems are part of the toolset.
Cryptosphere is a new darknet in development – a P2P darknet which sometimes uses the public internet for connection access. Klint Finley on techcrunch.com sizes up this new system as a ready way of matching up cyber-punks. Cryptosphere differs in some significant ways from other prominent P2P systems. These have included such notables as Freenet, and the now defunct MojoNation.
“MojoNation was a peer-to-peer network where members swapped resources in exchange for a digital currency called Mojo….Freenet provides the ability to upload and download content completely anonymously…through a distributed peer-to-peer network.”
Participation in a Freenet-type network simply involves downloading a client-server program. The app stores a certain amount of encrypted data on your hard drive and makes it available to other Freenet users. Installation allows the user two choices – to connect only with friends and other trusted users, or to participate with the entire network.
Such systems appear similar to Napster or BitTorrent on the surface, but users are unable to determine what is being stored. It could be a perfectly legal file, like a Linux distribution, or it could be something more sinister. A single storage node may even contain only fragments of files. It’s a system roundly designed for anonymity and plausible denial. Service is not guaranteed.
Such applications route file requests using encryption keys, and participating computers as relays between other machines in the network. A person can download files via public directories with encryption keys which enable file location and decryption. Downloading provides no information about where files originate. Freenet is notoriously slow, but it’s been the closest thing to a standard for this kind of functionality. It’s generally considered secure, but there are no warrantees.
Cryptosphere was created to strike a balance between the Freenet and MojoNation models, two previous systems. Cryptosphere was not designed to establish digital currency. Its development goal is “to incentivize people to provide storage service by making that the way they buy the right to store other things on the network,” according to project lead developer Tony Arcieri. “In Freenet there’s no incentive to provide reliable service.”
Unlike Freenet, Cryptosphere makes it impossible to know with whom you’re sharing files, except in friend-only mode. Arcieri explains the system was meant to promote bartering, “I think the main thing I’d like to try which is fairly novel is using a collaborative filtering algorithm (i.e. Amazon-style recommendations) to select optimal peers to perform exchanges with/barter with for storage space.”
Technology like this gets used for a variety of purposes, often controversial. Media swapping, pornography and political resistance all have their uses for secure P2P networking. Each encompasses its whole wide range of legal tangles, but most if not all dark systems exist because users want to obtain or distribute files without identity detection. In today’s geopolitical world, the greatest value of darknets is in providing a channel to exchange information in dangerous locations.
Cryptosphere is not yet available to use, but hackers may be looking to get a leg up in the interim by becoming familiar with “GitHub” – an extremely fast, efficient, distributed version control system ideal for the collaborative development of software with hub(s) for collaboration at github.com.