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[liberationtech] Internet blackout

Seth David Schoen schoen at
Thu Jun 13 16:27:17 PDT 2013

Rich Kulawiec writes:

> Usenet has long since demonstrated the ability to route around
> amazing amounts of damage and flakiness and to maintain communications
> over very slow (including sneakernet) links.
> Arguably, that sentence describes the normal operational state of the
> network on a typical summer day just like this one, 30 years ago. ;-)
> Usenet has some very nice properties for applications like this:
> 1. There is no centralization.  Thus there is no single target to
> shut down or block.
> 2. Messages are not addressed to individuals.  This frustrates
> some traffic analysis.
> 3. It's transport-agnostic.  Messages can be passed via IP, via UUCP,
> by USB stick, CD, DVD, etc.
> 4. It's highly delay-tolerant.
> 5. It's content-agnostic.
> 6. It's highly fault-tolerant.
> 7. It doesn't require real-time IP connectivity.  In areas where
> IP connectivity is scarce, expensive, intermittment, wiretapped
> or blocked, this is a big plus.
> 8. It's standardized.
> 9. Mature open-source software already exists for it.
> 10. Peering relationships can be ad-hoc.

These properties are really awesome.  One thing that I'm concerned
about is that classic Usenet doesn't really do authenticity.  It
was easy for people to spoof articles, although there would be
_some_ genuine path information back to the point where the spoofed
article originated.  It seems like if we're talking about using
Usenet in an extremely hostile environment, spoofing and forgery
are pretty significant threats (including classic problems like
spoofed control messages! but also cases of nodes modifying
message content).  A lot of the great properties you've mentioned
above that Usenet has already demonstrated have more to do with
performing well over slow or unreliable network links, but perhaps
not over actively hostile ones.

Some Usenet clients support PGP signing, but that may be of limited
use unless most users can verify and generate signatures.

Seth Schoen  <schoen at>
Senior Staff Technologist             
Electronic Frontier Foundation        
815 Eddy Street, San Francisco, CA  94109       +1 415 436 9333 x107

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