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[liberationtech] unmonitored international communication?

George Kadianakis desnacked at riseup.net
Thu Mar 3 17:33:24 PST 2016


Seth David Schoen <schoen at eff.org> writes:

> Carolyn Santo writes:
>
>> The recent talk about video games made me wonder about using them as
>> a communication channel that might not be monitored by repressive
>> governments.
>
> I've heard this idea is interesting to anti-censorship campaigners as
> well as to spy agencies.
>
> A disadvantage is that historically a lot of video game network
> protocols haven't been even transport-encrypted, let alone end-to-end
> encrypted.  So someone monitoring the network could likely even search
> for text strings in the traffic and find them, or in any case could
> develop software to interpret the game traffic.  This could change if
> more game protocols would run over TLS or DTLS.
>
> A further disadvantage is that the game operators themselves could
> monitor in-game communications and many of them probably have tools to
> do this, not least because multiplayer online games have been plagued by
> harassment and griefing and the game operators may want to have an easy
> way to review users' communications (which in turn can be applied to
> consensual communications too).  Jurisdictions that impose surveillance
> capability mandates (like the U.S.) may try to apply these to some kinds
> of in-game communications.
>
> An advantage is that some, but not all, surveillance systems may
> have been programmed to systematically discard most gaming-related
> traffic as uninteresting.  And any given game, especially one that's
> not super-popular, might be far down the list of platforms for which a
> particular surveillance system or organization develops analysis tools.
>

The above issues are indeed true. There are also engineering problems on
deploying closed-source video games along with open-source tools. Also NSA/GCHQ
have been tapping into WoW and Second Life for years now, but maybe that would
not be so easy for some censoring governments (e.g. China):
      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/09/nsa-spies-online-games-world-warcraft-second-lifea

FWIW, here is a paper that somewhat explores this area:
      http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.05904

They even made a PoC as Tor pluggable transport as it seems:
     https://github.com/bridgar/Castle-Covert-Channel
     https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/wiki/doc/AChildsGardenOfPluggableTransports#Castle




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