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Slyck’s Guide to Using P2P Anonymously
May 28, 2003
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Slyck examines anonymous P2P and looks at ways to protect your IP address from the snooping eyes of ‘P2P enemies’.

Why protect your Identity?

The RIAA, MPAA, Ranger, OverPeer and others regularly sweep P2P networks for those who are sharing certain material. They then obtain the IP address of these people and contact them via their ISP, something that is happening increasingly regularly.

Protection of your ID while using P2P systems has come to a head in the recent RIAA V Verizon case. The RIAA are involved in a lawsuit against Verizon that would make the process of revealing a P2P users identity even more easy for these ‘P2P enemies’. Should the RIAA win the lawsuit then every ISP will have to issue the contact details of suspected pirates directly to the RIAA.

Slyck spoke to Wendy Seltzerof the EFF who cautioned that “if the RIAA wins, it will be very difficult to assure privacy or anonymity on the most common P2P networks,” She said that she expected much greater demand for P2P software that protects your ID as these threats grow larger.

How to protect your identity

Protecting your IP address while browsing the web is easy with programs such as Anonymizer which block your IP address. However using p2p programs anonymously is more difficult. P2P relies on people’s ability to connect to your machine, and to do that they generally must know your IP Address.

There are some methods out there that attempt to address this.

Programs such as FreeNet have been around for some time that blocks the location of the traffic. However, there are easier methods than FreeNet out there to protect your identity.

IP Blocking

A simple solution but slight flawed is to block the IP addresses of ‘p2p enemies’ (RIAA, Overpeer etc). Programs such as PeerGuardian do this. They maintain a list of IP addresses of the ‘p2p enemies’ which can be used as an blocklist add-on to a p2p program.

The flaw in blocking IP addresses is that it is easy for one of the ‘p2p enemies’ to change or create new IP addresses.

Software available for Bluetack.co.uk helps to address this. Software from BlueTack compiles the various different lists of IP addresses and converts existing blocklists to make them compatible for different p2p programs. Slyck spoke to Dom of blueTack who said he wrote the program “because I saw a genuine need to create something to help compile a more definitive list of blocked addresses from the available blocklists that are out there”.

However as Dom put it, the system still “relies on someone from the community learning about it [a new hostile IP] and entering the new ip range into the database”.

P2P software with blocked IP address is therefore far from a foolproof method.

There are several P2P tools out there that attempt to achieve complete anonymity …

EarthStation 5

One of the most fascinating projects related to p2p anonymity in development is EathStation 5. Es5’s chronicles page is a wish list for any p2p user in terms of protection of identity and it is exactly what Es5 offers.

Slyck spoke to Ras Kabir of Es5 who said simply “what Es5 does is use proxies which hide the users real IP” adding “Their is no real way to IP Cloaking other than going through Proxies.” Proxy-nodes (other users) relay transfers.

The beta of the product is highly buggy and it certainly requires further refinement. However Ras told us that the full product would be released this week.

FileTopia

FileTopia has been on the P2P scene for some time and key to their features is protection of your IP address. In their own words they offer “strong ciphers and public key techniques for all communications and sophisticated techniques to protect your IP and thus make you truly anonymous”. However many view FileTopia as not been feature rich and it does not have as large a community as other P2P programs.

XS

Another project in the works that is gaining some press is XS by Tim, the creator of PeerGuardian. Tim is working on making XS a fully anonymous p2p client.

Slyck spoke to Tim who told us that user anonymity will be added at “some point this summer (the next few months)” and that it is “seen as a vital feature advantage over other similar clients”. The systems that will be employed by XS will be similar to FileTopia’s bouncer nodes.

The necessity of protecting your IP address online is essentially based on how you view the risk associated with the tactics of the RIAA et al. Even the EFF admitted that some aspects of online privacy have “been overblown”.

However, the threat of your activities been snooped on is increasing and is likely to be of even more importance in the future. Therefore, usage of one of the number of tools that help make p2p more anonymous is only likely to seriously grow.


This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: Other

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