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Kaspersky CEO Wants To End Online Anonymity

I just saw this little gem on Slashdot this morning:

Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of well-known computer security
company Kaspersky Labs, is calling for an end to the anonymity of the
Internet, and for the creation of mandatory ‘Internet passports’ for
anyone who wishes to browse the Web

The very first thought I had after reading this and the articles on The Register and ZDNet Asia that it referred to was “This guy must have had an overdose of diet pills and they’ve caused his brain to shrivel up into something the size of a piece of buckshot.”  Then again of course there’s reason for him to think like that.  Just looking up the Wikipedia entry on him gives the first clue:

Kaspersky graduated from the Institute of Cryptography, Telecommunications and Computer Science, an institute co-sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Defence and the KGB in 1987

Given his history, I suppose it’s no wonder that he wants to eliminate anonymity but it’s obvious to me that he’s not thinking quite clearly here.  You see, while it is true that there’s a lot of people that abuse anonymity either to harass people or for criminal purposes that number is actually a small but extremely vocal minority.  Those who most need to make use of anonymity are, by definition, absolutely not interested in being noticed.

I’ve seen it said many times “If you’re not doing anything illegal then you have nothing to worry about.” or words to that effect and to that I respond Bullshit!, some things are just nobody’s flipping business!

Anonymity is necessary in order to have true freedom of speech.  It is the one way that unpopular speech can truly be protected and lets be clear about something.  Just because something is unpopular doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or that somebody doesn’t have the right to say it.  They do however, have the right to express themselves without fear of reprisal from oppressive governments, corporate entities, or just plain crazy people who might decide to oppress their speech with a shotgun if they knew their identity.

Everything is NOT everybody’s business.  That old reporter’s saw “The people have a right to know everything about everyone” is a damned lie straight from the pits of hell.  I myself frequently use both anonymity and encryption tools to conceal some of my activities online, not because I’m doing (or planning) anything illegal or that I’m being an ugly troll on some message board or blog, instead it’s but because what websites I visit, whom I communicate with and what I say to them is quite simply none of anybody’s business but mine and I want to keep it that way.

Others require anonymity in order to be safe from retaliation because they made the mistake of telling the truth about what some governments have been up to.  A very good read on the subject is “Dissent Made Safer: How anonymity technology could save free speech on the Internet.“.  You can also find more on the TOR website’s “Who Uses TOR?” page, the TOR Overview page also goes into detail about Why we need Tor and the Electronic Frontier Foundation is another source of plenty of reasons why anonymity is important.

“Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind.” Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60, 64 (1960). Great works of literature have frequently been produced by authors writing under assumed names.  Despite readers’ curiosity and the public’s interest in identifying the creator of a work of art, an author is generally free to decide whether or not to disclose his or her true identity. The decision in favor of anonymity may be motivated by fear of economic or official retaliation, by concern about social ostracism, or merely by a desire to preserve as much of one’s privacy as possible. Whatever the motivation may be…the interest in having anonymous works enter the marketplace of ideas unquestionably outweighs any public interest in requiring disclosure as a condition of entry. Accordingly, an author’s decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.” — US Supreme Court McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm

In closing I’ll say that I actually found it quite entertaining to read the comments on Slashdot about this story and I don’t doubt that Mr. Kaspersky has quite probably signed the virtual death warrant of his company because I have no doubt at all that this will inspire many sysadmins and IT people to look elsewhere for their security software solutions.  I know *I* will never buy his stuff.

Technorati Tags: fear of retaliation, kaspersky, tor, oppressive governments, anonymity, not your business, privacy, freedom of speech

Folded Note Could Be Unfolded Too Easily For Strong Anonymity


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www.foldednote.com is another in the long list of web based services that offer some form of anonymous email messaging.  Theirs is somewhat different than most I’ve seen in that it involves a four step process and even allows the anonymous sender to recieve a reply.  All this while ostensibly remaining anonymous.  Of course, I decided to check it out.

Step one

You’re presented with a form where you enter the recipient’s email address and write your message (which is limited to 500 characters).  When you’re done, you click on “Review your note” which takes you to a page that allows you to preview the note and, if need be, continue editing.

I have to say that I also found it interesting that they actively prevent users from sending messages to themselves.  Fortunately I have plenty of secondary email addresses to use for testing the site.

Once you’re satisfied, you then need to enter your email address and solve a captcha.  This causes a confirmation to be sent to your email address.  The confirmation contains a link that you must use in order to sent the email.  I’ll give ‘em one thing, their use of confirmation of the sender’s email combined with a captcha means that this system is like pantry moth traps for spammers so the site will definitely not be abused by spammers.

It also insures that they’ve got your email address because the system will not send your message unless it’s got yours confirmed by clicking the link in the confirmation email they send you.

Step two

The next thing that happens is that the recipient get an email from folded note saying that there’s a message waiting for them and gives them a link to click on to pick it up.  Once they click on the link they get the note presented on the folded note site.

Step three

At this point you have the option to rate the note, block the sender permanently or send a reply.  The reply can only be up to 200 characters long

Step four

Finally the sender gets to see the response if any.

The folded note site makes it clear in their terms of service that they’ll cooperate with law enforcement, court orders and the like.  Anyone using this system should make very certain not to trust it with anything important at all and certainly not anything illegal.  Remember, it makes a point of not only collecting, but confirming a real email address that can be used to reach you.

In addition to that there’s the usual reminder that because this is web based, they have your IP address in their server logs from the moment you connect.

In terms of the level of anonymity and security you get from this site, I would class it as little more than a toy that should never be used for anything serious or trusted with any real secrets.

Technorati Tags: weak anonymity, hotmail, not anonymous, web mail, send anonymous email, website review, anonymous email, anonymous email site, review, anonymity

One Case For Anonymity


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This is a good example of how anonymity can be helpful.  When governments an businesses are doing wrong it’s important that somebody speak up about it to expose the corruption and / or waste.  However in the case of people in Iraq, it’s proven to be a dangerous proposition to be a whistleblower.  Being able to do so with secure anonymity would have allowed these people to expose the information that needed to be revealed without being identified and subject to things like these people have been through

IRAQ WHISTLEBLOWERS VILIFIED, DEMOTED

They spoke out about corruption and waste in the reconstruction of Iraq, thinking it
was the right thing to do. But time and again, whistleblowers have found themselves
demoted, fired, even imprisoned by the government they wanted to help.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Do We Have A Right To Anonymity As Well As Privacy?


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In a word, YES

What the author of the blog/whatever quoted here makes the argument that anonymity is not a right that people have an expectation of. She also tries to suggest that anonymity software should not be legally distributed except when somebody demonstrates the “need” for it somehow.

The problem with this is when somebody needs to be anonymous I daresay that they don’t really have the time to go getting approval first. It’s also entirely reasonable that the very person or persons / agency that is in charge of permitting anonymity could be the very thing that the would-be anonymous person needs to remain anonymous FROM in the first place.

She also tries to make the argument that anonymity and privacy are not the same thing. I submit that they very often are and that people have the right to function anonymously… Just like you don’t (or shouldn’t) have to identify yourself to a Law Enforcement Agent simply because they tell you to. They need to show cause or bring specific charges before identifying yourself should be required.


Do We Have an Expected Right to Internet Anonymity?
Should Internet Anonymity Software Be Distributed Legally?
Internet anonymity allows users to keep all the information regarding their personal, computer, and business information private while being active on the internet. Like any right or freedom, it can be very helpful or be heavily abused. If someone uses internet anonymity software because they are being stalked or harassed, then most would agree that their right to use internet anonymity is viable.  But, if someone wishes to be anonymous on the internet so that they can distribute viruses or communicate with terrorists, than their access to these tools should be denied. From these two assumptions, we can only agree that idealy, internet anonymity should be evaluated on an individual basis. The means, nor the support are available to offer this kind of regulation to internet anonymity, so the debate remains, should it be legal?

Freenet 0.5 Is Dead


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The anonymous publishing, messaging and file sharing network known as Freenet 0.5 is, in my opinion, finally dead.

I first started using Freenet around 2004 a little while before version 0.5 was released.  It was a great idea, one that I consider to be very important in today’s world where “Big Brother” is increasingly snooping into every aspect of our lives.  A world where privacy is getting harder and harder to achieve and maintain.  A world where the anonymity which is an important part of any free society is more and more difficult to achieve.

It was a platform for truly anonymous publishing and blogging that was completely proof against censorship.  You could write anything you wanted and as long as you were careful not to expose details that could identify you, it guaranteed bulletproof anonymity that few (if any) other networks could achieve.

When I finally had a computer with enough capability and an internet connection that could handle the load, I started a permanent Freenet node of my own.  Except for occasional technical or hardware difficulties that node ran 24/7 for well over six years.  I maintained a “Flog” (a Freenet blog) and an index site that used a spider program to search out and maintain a list of links to other Freenet sites.

Then a few years ago the Freenet developers decided that it was time to move from version 0.5 to version 0.7.  A lot of people welcomed this change and migrated to the new version right away.  A lot of other people had an assortment of reasons not to trust the new version and stayed with 0.5.

For several years the two networks, while not compatible, existed side by side.  Many people ran both versions simultaneously, maintaining a presence on both networks.

Sometime around 2010 I began to notice an increasing decline in the number of 0.5 nodes that my node knew about.  Identities on the Frost message boards that I had been acquainted with for years began to go silent.  Never to be heard from again.

It reached the point where the only message boards I could find with activity on them were the ones related to file transfers, used to request files to be inserted into the network and report successful and unsuccessful downloads.

Around 2010 I began trying to convince people that if this 0.5 network were to survive it would need fresh new content.  It would need people to create new Freesites and Flogs and make at least semi-regular updates of those sites.

Eventually I took what I considered a drastic measure.  I obtained copies of the Freenet 0.5 and Frost source code and began learning Java in the little bit of spare time I had in an effort to get development restarted.  I began work on updating Freenet and even published build 5110, the first new build in over two years.  For well over a year I asked Freenet users for any help in this project that they were willing to offer.

In all that time I received all of a mere handful of one time responses.  Attempts to follow up on those responses received absolutely zero followup replies.

Fast forward to today.  In the last five months my node has NEVER been connected to more than one other at a time and that has always been the same node.

I hung in there hoping even then that things would turn around.

They have not.

Two nodes do not make even a fiftieth of a useful anonymous network.  In fact, with only two nodes (at least that I am aware of), anonymity is impossible.

Therefore I have taken it upon myself to declare that based on my observations over the last six months that Freenet 0.5 is dead.

I have shut my node down and will probably not start it back up again.

I know that there will be some who will say that I should just move to the 0.7.x branch of Freenet however at this time I still cannot bring myself to trust it because it’s so-called “darknet” is built on the concept of trusting node operators that you have no real-world reason to trust.  You don’t know them, in the overwhelming majority of cases you’ve never even met them or had any kind of online interaction with them before encountering them on the anonymous network.

Freenet 0.5 may have been left behind in terms of technology but I still think that it has one clear advantage over the current version.  It does not and never has required you to trust another node operator.  In fact it assumes that at any given time there are evil operators attempting to compromise individual users or even the network itself.

In my opinion, an anonymous network cannot rely on a trust based system.  Instead it must assume that there are large numbers of operators, either individually or working together, that are trying to compromise the network and it’s users.  The “darknet” that Freenet’s developers have created does not do this.

Oh I will probably look over and try out the current official version of Freenet from time to time but I’ve got to say.  It just won’t be the same.  By making that split and not maintaining network compatibility with the 0.5 branch, the developers divided Freenet and it’s users in a way that caused a lot of hard feelings and even more distrust.

For quite a while the divisiveness I saw between the two different versions was reminiscent of stories I’ve read about the US Civil war.  It started in 1861 and now, well over a hundred and fifty years later there are still people who are angry about it and distrustful of the descendents of the other side.

In any event.  With the death of Freenet 0.5 anonymity and freedom of speech have been wounded at least a little bit in a time when they are taking enough wounds from big government, big content, big corporations and politicians with their nasty little agendas.

Nice going fellas.


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