Follow the Bouncing Line

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Remember all those old spy and hacker flicks where you'd find the Authorities (whether cast as good guys or heavies) trying to trace some clever intruder on their network by means of a giant, brightly colored map that plots a line from the point of intrusion to the hacker's location? Except, being a clever hacker, the signal's been routed through a dozen systems in a dozen countries, so that red line goes zig-zagging around the map until, in triumph or despair, someone in that blinking-light-filled room shouts out "I got it!" or "We lost him!"

Yeah, well, now you too can make the red line zig and zag: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has released an anonymizing router program called TOR that sends your encrypted data bouncing along a random and hard-to-trace path.

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  1. For some reason I feel that “call me snake” should be posting in this thread.

  2. I’m all for it being harder for anyone to track anyone else on the internet. If it were this easy to track ordinary movements such as driving around, people in general wouldn’t stand for it.

    The issue is there’s such a complete lack a knowledge, both by the users of the system as well as the legistators who should be defending people against these privacy attacks, that there’s little hope of dramatic change in the near term. Not to mention that legistlators and law enforcement probably like the fact they can trace almost anything they want now. I’ve even heard rumors that most “plots” inside the US were stopped because the terrorists would go in to internet chat rooms and openly discuss their plans.

    Nonetheless, power to open source software!

  3. “Remember all those old spy and hacker flicks where you’d find the Authorities (whether cast as good guys or heavies) trying to trace some clever intruder on their network by means of a giant, brightly colored map that plots a line from the point of intrusion to the hacker’s location?”

    Three Days Of The Condor has such a scene, regarding a phone call into the CIA. It also has the “hero” (Redford) questioning his CIA superior (Cliff Robertson): “Do we have plans to invade the Middle East?”

    Hmmmm….

  4. also, if you feel like playing wily hacker and bouncing the line yourself, there’s a wicked-cool shareware game called Uplink that’ll let you do just that.

    Mac: http://www.ambrosiasw.com/games/uplink/

    PC/Linux: http://www.uplink.co.uk/

  5. If it were this easy to track ordinary movements such as driving around, people in general wouldn’t stand for it. – 6?

    We’ll see about that, as the installation of GPS-tracking devices in rental cars and commercial fleets grows, and the car companies start equipping new cars with “black boxes,” to the encouragement of insurance companies and law enforcement. Parents are outfitting their kids with cell phones that are GPS enabled as a way of keeping tabs on junior. If the flock actually rebels against this, instead of just baaing and lining up for the next shearing, I will be well heartened, but I won’t bet that way.

    Kevin

  6. If only I knew about this three days ago!

  7. Kevin –

    Yep, I was wondering if someone would bring this up. It seems I read in this magazine that most of the privacy we are giving up, we are doing so because of the convenience(s) it gives, not really considering the ramifications overall.

    Anyway, to your larger point, in theory GPS in cars to track your childern can’t be accessed from anyone other than “authorized” users. Of course companies shouldn’t be tracking my movements on the internet either, but here we are.

    It actually amazes me the steps to which individuals go to remove any thoughts of privacy they might have, but the individual does have the right to do so. People in general seem to be willing to give up privacy for specialized advertising, airline miles, and the like.

    Again, I think the main problem goes back to the simple fact most people don’t understand that they are being tracked without their knowledge, and unlike Borders keeping track of my purchases to alert me to discounts on books I may like, these spyware programs are tracking everything we do. I think a little education would go along way, but like you, I won’t bet on it.

    Since it would be illegal for me to break into these companies systems, wouldn’t the same laws be applicable to them running software on mine?

  8. 6?:

    My best cyberfriends are the Lavasoft guys, the folks who produce Spybot Search & Destroy, and Grisoft, makers of AVG. Knock that nasty malware out! It is astonishing how many people “surf naked” without virus/worm and spyware protection.

    Kevin

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