Egyptian Revolutionaries Aided by the Anonymous Net

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Even before the Mubarak government shut down Internet traffic to and from the country, many Egyptian dissidents were taking precautions by communicating via the “anonymous net.” The anonymous Internet is a parallel network of peer-to-peer servers that relays your information (and your applications) anonymously. The purpose is to keep government officials and commercial entities from being able to track who you are and what you’re saying. This is particularly important if you are concerned about having your civil liberties infringed or being thrown in jail because you are speaking your mind in ways that are unpopular to the regime.

“There are many people wanting to record your Internet traffic and browsing patterns; from governments to commercial advertising networks. There are many ways to defeat the threat of traffic analysis; from simple proxy providers, virtual private networks, and distributed peer to peer solutions. Only some of these offer anonymity along with circumvention.”

From the Tor blog: Circumvention and Anonymity

Egyptian-Tor-UsersMany of Patty’s Pioneers have been predicting an increase in the use of anonymous peer-to-peer networks for some time. These people aren’t political activists. But they are tech-savvy businesspeople who aren’t excited about having Google or Microsoft, or any government or any commercial entity tap into their private communications.

The open source Tor program provides anonymity and circumvents wiretapping of your online information by relying on a network of volunteers who are willing to put up Tor servers. (This is not a trivial act of defiance—a few people running Tor servers have been arrested!)

During late January, as the Egyptian revolution began to unfold, it was fascinating to see the spike in anonymous peer-to-peer networking that occurred via Tor.

Apparently, many of the Egyptian dissidents were tech-savvy enough, or knew people who were, so they were able to avail themselves of this option to preserve their anonymity even as the number of communication options dwindled. It was indeed possible for Egyptians and those communicating with them to use Tor’s anonymous peer-to-peer network via the one small ISP, Noor, that didn’t get shut down by the Egyptian government.

What I find heartening is that our Internet infrastructure, our mobile networks, and our people networks seem to be self-healing in innovative ways. Tyrants may try to block communication and try to eavesdrop on our conversations, but human beings are resilient and smart enough to develop alternate means of secure communication.

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