Activists Are Designing Mesh Networks To Deploy During Civil Unrest

Source: Slashdot

Article note: This is something I muse about for fun pretty often. What if we built a peer-to-peer wireless network that we could fiddle with independent of commercial transit? What if it had network properties that looked different than the current internet (eg. store-and-forward? information centered?)? What if we _intentionally_ built technical protections/limitations into it (eg. fancy transport level crypto, nodes identified by cryptographic nonces for anonymity? users with IDs rather than nodes? some kind of peer attestation scheme?)? It's a fucklot of work to play with anything like that so I never get past musing, but it looks like these folks are making some preliminary inroads on a scheme that hits a lot of those points.

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: [O]rganizers and programmers with the Mycelium Mesh Project are [...] designing a decentralized, off-grid mesh network for text communications that could be deployed quickly during government-induced blackouts or natural disasters. Mesh networks, a form of intranet distributed across various nodes rather than a central internet provider, have the potential to decrease our collective reliance on telecommunication conglomerates like Spectrum and Verizon. During a civil unrest situation, government operatives could theoretically disconnect established commercial mesh networks by raiding activists' homes and destroying their nodes or super nodes. The Mycelium Mesh Project is addressing this potential weak link by developing a system that could be deployed at a moment's notice in non-locations, such as on abandoned buildings, tree tops, electric boxes and utility poles. Nodes would be cheap, run independently of the power grid, and could be produced with materials that can be obtained locally. So far, the collective has successfully sent and received text messages across thirteen miles during field testing around Atlanta, Georgia with nodes powered by rechargeable batteries harvested from disposable vapes. [...] The Mycelium Mesh Project is still in its relatively early stages of development. Messages aren't encrypted -- a necessary feature for activists -- and the model isn't ready for long-range use. But developers are hopeful that their open-source model will promote cooperation amongst like-minded coders. "The network that we all use will work pretty much fine in 99.9% of the cases. But then when it doesn't, it's a real big problem," Marlon Kautz, an organizer and developer with the project, told Motherboard. "The authorities' control over our communications infrastructure can just completely determine what is politically possible in a situation where the future is really up for grabs, where people are making a move to change things in a serious and radical way." "This is anti-capitalist work, which is non-commercial. We are not trying to start a business," Kautz explained. "We're explicitly trying to take advantage of open source type concepts. So not not only do we want the code that we're developing to be open source, but our entire production model will be."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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