Tools of the Technocracy: #5 Networks
Networks are the infrastructure used to bridge the physical world and online systems. They can enable people from all over the world to communicate with each other, which sadly has the downside of technocrats having the capability of monitoring and controlling people’s communications.
Networks have precious resources that enable their utility:
How quickly can a signal reach it’s destination
How far can a signal go
How much information can a signal carry
Prevents people from snooping on signals
These resources are critical in delivering content. One of the largest challenges to decentralization is the economies of scale. This means that “the system” has advantages to completely eliminate any competition. Centralized and privacy invading options will always be more efficient and convenient than other options. It is important to manage your expectations accordingly.
Cloudflare is the world’s largest MITM [Man in the middle] proxy(reverse proxy). Cloudflare owns more than 80% of CDN market share and the number of cloudflare users are growing each day. They have expanded their network to more than 100 countries. Cloudflare serves more web traffic than Twitter, Amazon, Apple, Instagram, Bing & Wikipedia combined. > Cloudflare is offering free plan and many people are using it instead of configuring their servers properly. They traded privacy over convenience. Source: https://git.disroot.org/dCF/deCloudflare/src/branch/master/readme/en.md
Almost every large website and service is using Cloudflare, this means that any encryption between you and the website and service is effectively broken at that point. While your connections will be protected until they reach Cloudflare’s servers, after that point it is entirely down to trust. It is naive to think that Cloudflare isn’t forced to monitor the massive trove of data it can collect on people’s online activity. A VPN may protect your IP but it won’t be able to secure the data sent to these services.
What services get out of using Cloudflare is DDOS protection. Distributed Denial of Service attacks are when a massive amount of bandwidth is used to take down your service. This is essentially a protection racket where any site worth targeting has to spend resources to protect against these kind of attacks. It is possible that many of these attacks are being initiated by actors who would rather sites stay behind Cloudflare or similar services.
Virtual Private Network are often seen as the solution to all online privacy issues. This is people being mislead by slick advertising. VPNs are very useful for accessing content that is blocked in specific regions or protecting your IP from being known by online services. There are many ways users using a VPN can have their IP leaked so it is essential to make sure you are using your VPN properly.
Your internet service provider (ISP) may not be trustworthy so you may want to use a VPN, it is important to realize that by using a VPN you are effectively transferring the risk of your ISP logging, tracking, censoring your information to that VPN provider. Like ISPs VPNs are businesses and it is foolish to assume they will put your needs as an individual or customer before the interests of their business.
The largest challenge of wireless networks is that there will be many of them outside your control. Ubiquitous surveillance provided by devices all around you isn’t something you can easily mitigate. Ignorance isn’t bliss however, you are still vulnerable to these systems.
Wireless networks are difficult to secure, especially from a motivated adversary. Even your own wireless router is likely outright selling your data. Activities done over wireless networks are much easier to intercept than ones over wired connections.
If this wasn’t bad enough, wireless devices can be used as sonar to track everyone in a given space. Given that these devices are continuously listening this can provide a very complete picture of people’s day-to-day lives.
Mobile data (LTE / 5G)
Much has been speculated about the health risks due 5G / Wi-Fi, while harms from EMF may be worth investigating in specific circumstances they are outside the scope of this article. Even in instances where the technology itself is harmless it can often coincide with other weaponized technology.
What is clear is that introducing more and more cheap, accessible bandwidth to more devices exponentially increases the capabilities of those who want to track and control. 5G will be very useful for relaying huge amounts of data including ultra-high resolution video from all kinds of angles.
For some applications, a full internet connection is overkill. LoRa devices can send small signals over a very long range. This can be a very efficient way of relaying data from censors. There is already a cryptocurrency launched to bootstrap a worldwide surveillance grid.
IoT & Automation
The more accessible connectivity is for devices the more these devices can encroach the physical world. These applications can become cheaper and more common, discreet, and invasive. As networks expand, techniques that were impossible before become viable opportunities.
Any information, no matter how trivial can be collected and analyzed to gain power over others. Those in control of the data collection systems will have massive advantages over those who don’t. Machine learning can be used to make these systems much more efficient at collecting specific kinds of data based on raw details.
Like the internet, The Onion Router (Tor) has origins as a military project. It has two very useful features for reclaiming your digital freedom:
As far as online services are concerned, Tor users generally appear the same. When one uses the Tor browser they have the same fingerprint as all other users to make them harder to individually identify. As well your connection is then routed to the internet through “exit relays” such as the Snowflake extension.
Hidden services are services that are accessible entirely within the Tor network. This means that they do not use “exit relays” and instead are only routed within Tor. The advantage of this is that you can be very sure that you are having a secure connection directly to the intended recipient, with all of the security guarantees of the Tor network.
Having your website or service available as a hidden service has some significant advantages:
- Protection from Man-in-the-middle attacks
- Your service can still be accessible if your domain is taken from you
- Hidden services can be served from mobile connections
There are other “darkweb” protocols such as I2P.
Meshnets are a useful way to democratize connectivity. There doesn’t need to be a one-size-fits-all approach some options will work better in different places. You could also run your own services behind VPNs run by your community instead of commercial enterprises. Investing in a truly independent community network is a significant challenge but can yield incredible rewards.
Faraday is your Friend
Having a faraday bag can help keep your phone from reporting your location while your travel with it. Given the potential these devices have against you, it can be wise to create secure locations in your home or business that don’t allow signals in or out. This won’t prevent devices from listening and recording, but if you place them in a soundproof location that can help.