Fourth Amendment

BitTorrent Sync: The NSA-Resistant File Sharing Service You Might Have Missed

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Sarang \ Wikimedia

BitTorrent Inc. is shifting the emphasis of its business to BitTorrent Sync, a transformative file-sharing service that boasts NSA resistance.

Last year, Belarussian Konstantin Lissounov threw together a crude version of Sync at a BitTorrent hackathon. It allowed him to "quickly and easily send encrypted photos of his three children across dodgy Eastern European network lines to the rest of his family." Now, the peer-to-peer file synchronization tool boasts two million users a month and is developing into BitTorrent's primary product. Wired shines some light on the motivation for the move around:

A big part of the commercial opportunity for the tool, BitTorrent executives believe, lies in the reality that large corporations are aggressively reining in data following Snowden's revelations.

Like Dropbox, BitTorrent Sync enables easy transfer of music, documents, and other files. But Sync's decentralized structure distinguishes it. Sync replaces data-storage centers, which the NSA can easily tap, with a peer-to-peer network. Like the BitTorrent protocol, users can share files directly, from one device to another. This leaves absolutely no opportunity for an agency like the NSA to harvest bulk data, because it cannot penetrate a central server. This method of file-sharing is somewhat less convenient because, Wired explains, "in order to synchronize files across multiple systems, all must be online at the same time." But CEO Eric Klinker believes that the pros outweigh the cons for many consumers.

Sync has also been used as a platform for other exciting projects. Wired reports:

Two open source programmers, one in Texas and one in South Africa, have launched vole.cc, a distributed social network built on Sync. Last month, an engineer who works for Harvard University unveiled SyncNet, a parallel version of the world wide web that runs on Sync.

Decentralized technologies are stirring a productive excitement. Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency, similarly relies on a peer-to-peer protocol. Projects like BitCloud, which aims to "decentralize the internet," are popping up. The sharing economy is nurturing disruptive technologies that grant increased privacy, cheaper access, and a decentralized protocol. The "Dropbox killer" is embedded in that trend.

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  1. “This leaves absolutely no opportunity for an agency like the NSA to harvest bulk data, because it cannot penetrate a central server.”

    So they couldn’t put the puzzle together, given that they intercept and store all the traffic on the accompanying backbones, and can create association maps of all the members of the network?

    1. They also couldn’t figure out what Snowden was doing.

  2. Two open source programmers, one in Texas [Employed by the NSA] and one in South Africa, have launched vole.cc, a distributed social network built on Sync.

    One should always be wondering.

  3. I’m assuming the reason you’d want an NSA resistant torrent network is to make files available to multiple people in disparate locations, but people that you trust?

    Because I don’t need a fancy SyncTorrent to sent files from point A to point B, I can use any number of super-strong encryption methods if I want to just send a file to a specific, predetermined target.

    1. Its resistance to NSA is its because of its decentralized nature which prevents the use of National Security letters to get DropBox/Google to give up the goods on hundreds/thousands of people w/o a warrant.

      It also avoids the ridiculous 3rd party doctrine interpretation that ordinary law enforcement might try to use to get around the need for warrant to see data.

    2. Well. Let’s say you’re collaboratively working on a project with many files associated with it. Instead of encrypting and emailing every time you create a new file, the synch simply updates the folder automatically on mutilple trusted computers.

    3. Also I believe Synch has an integrated encryption protocol, as well.

    4. I’m assuming the reason you’d want an NSA resistant torrent network is to make files available to multiple people in disparate locations, but people that you trust?

      Or you might just want the Utah Data Center to be a $1.5 billion white elephant. For kicks.

    5. I think the Sync would prevent the NSA from knowing who you are sending stuff to and receiving it from, which encryption can’t do…I think.

  4. There’s a problem down the road for ISPs as businesses and home users default to virtual encrypted networks. Every little mom and pop business now has its own Internet service. Every suburban home has its own ISP service. There is no technical problem with one business in an office complex or shopping mall having the only ISP access and sharing that connection with the other businesses. But for the privacy. That problem goes away when all traffic is encrypted. This will cause an Internet infrastructure build-down. Sell your Time Warner and Comcast stock today! (Do not take investment advise from me)

    1. When it starts hurting large campaign contributers it will be time to regulate it out of existence “or else the terrorist will win”.

      1. They’ll try to regulate it out of existence.

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