The nature of the internet makes the damn thing perfect for monitoring. Whatever kind of data travels through wires, can be copied and examined today or 50 years from now. The battle for privacy should not be taken on the grounds of technology, but on the ground of politics, in a Democracy. Technology only buys time. More on the subject here.
Darknets are virtual networks on top of the internet. These networks allow us to serf anonymously online among other things.
- The Onion Router – URL: Probably the most widely known and used darknet today. Many nodes online, got really fast the last couple of months and hit the news more often than not.
- FreeNET – URL: Second most widely used darknet.
- I2P – URL: Probably the third most widely used darknet. It has fewer nodes (and publicity) compared with TOR and FreeNET. It’s a very interesting project whatsoever. You can see a thorough comparison with TOR here. Not sure if it offers better privacy though.
- GNUNet – URL: Old project, started in 2001 and now approaching 1.0 version (current is 9.x something) but still not fully functional. Aimed at making a perfectly anonymous file-sharing network but can also act as full-featured darknet.
- CyptoSphere – URL: Decentralized darknet, based on Tahoe-LAFS, interesting but still vaporware.
- Diaspora – URL: Diaspora started a privacy-aware Facebook alternative. Every use could control the amount of information displayed and other aspects of privacy that are non existed in all major social networks. Never took traction and the authors decided to make it open source. Now a small group of users can run their nodes, connect to specific nodes and other interesting stuff.
- Tox – URL: Tox is built with the idea that you can keep up with friends and family without having your privacy violated. Supports im, video and audio calls.
- CryptoCat – URL: The most famous encrypted messaging online OTR system. Features browser plugins and desktop clients. Very easy to use. It’s level of safety though was questioned by a bug recently. Now at least this bug is long gone.
- BitMessage – URL: Bitmessage is a P2P communications protocol used to send encrypted messages to another person or to many subscribers. It is decentralized and trustless, meaning that you need-not inherently trust any entities like root certificate authorities. It uses strong authentication which means that the sender of a message cannot be spoofed, and it aims to hide “non-content” data, like the sender and receiver of messages, from passive eavesdroppers like those running warrantless wiretapping programs. It’s a good alternative to email!
- XMPP – URL: XMPP is not a program, it’s an open source protocol which can work in conjunction with sockets v5 e.g. Tor and supports OTR encryption using fancy idiot-proof clients like Pidgin, Adium and probably others. Visit jabber.org to create an account ( via Tor if you’d like to be anonymous ). Supports audio, video and it’s fairly tested.
- BitWeav – URL: BitWeav is a project to build the premier decentralised P2P microblogging alternative; a P2P Twitter.
- Cyttr – URL: Another encrypted twitter alternative, still vaporware.
- BitChip – URL: Sort of anonymous twitter, based on Bitcoin scheme. Almost works but not 100% anonymous yet.
- BitCoin – URL: Bitcoin is an innovative payment network and a new kind of money. Bitcoin among other very interesting features, offers strong anonymity.
- Litecoin – URL: It’s the most famous BitCoin clone with some technical additions, but it’s basically just a BTC clone.
- PPCoin – URL: Implementation technicalities apart, this currency is the first one to tackle BitCoin’s scheme problem. Bitcoin is a failed currency not by chance, but by design. A currency must devalue in some way, otherwise consumers are more interested in hoarding then spending. BTCs are finite in number, so their value should keep raising as they become more and more rare, making the early adopters more and more rich and failing as a currency because no one wants to buy or sell using BTCs. It’s cheaper to buy using USD, EUR and other established currencies which devalue when the authorities see fit. So believe me when I say that a currency that doesn’t devalue, is not a currency. PPCoin could be the way of the future.
- OneSwarm – URL: Can also be used for messaging. An excellent solution for small team of individuals wanting to share privately encrypted data. Supports servers as a central repository where users can use to upload data. Last commit dates 1 year ago.
- GNUNet – URL: See above.
- SteganoShare – URL: Steganography is the art and science of writing hidden messages in such a way that no-one apart from the sender and intended recipient even realizes there is a hidden message. You can upload an image containing a hidden message at Flickr and take over the world(!). Not sure about the level of security it offers though.
- Retroshare – URL: RetroShare is a Open Source cross-platform, Friend-2-Friend and secure decentralised communication platform. It lets you to securely chat and share files with your friends and family, using a web-of-trust to authenticate peers and OpenSSL to encrypt all communication.
- Yacy – URL: Yacy is an absolutely marvelous project that deserves much more traction in my view. It’s a decentralized web search engine. Every user can run a node. The user can decide to which peers to connect. There’s a default global network. Connections to other nodes can be through Tor, to anonymize your node completely. Every node – or engine if you wanna call it – has it’s own crawler, crawling submitted websites for data. The engine searches the local database for any results and only then queries the peers for results. The results are better than expected for English spoken internet, but it’s nowhere near Google or Yahoo!. But it could easily be. The only downside is that it requires huge amounts of RAM and CPU to run smoothly. So it might take a dedicated server to run such a node properly.
Live Operating Systems
- Tails – URL: Tails is a GNU/Linux live distribution to browse the Internet anonymously. The major advantage of ‘tails’ is that it doesn’t leave any tracks around. Once you finish browsing or doing whatever you did on a computer, there’s no way of retrieving any sort of info later.
Encryption & Disk encryption
- TrueCrypt – URL: TrueCrypt is the most widely cross-platform used encryption system. I can work in a variety of ways. It’s not super-easy but not hard to use either. It has advanced, interesting features and supports a wide variety of algorithms.
- GnuPG – URL: The OpenGPG allows users to encrypt and sign any sort of data. It’s an awesome personalized tool, that should be way more widespread by now. Not sure why it’s not. It’s mostly used for emails, but it has so many applications that are hard to count. I often use my GnuPG key to encrypt text and data files.
- mcrypt – URL: This is an advanced encryption software for UNIX-like operating systems. I’m not sure if you can compile libmcrypt on windows using Cygwin. Mcrypt supports a wide variety of algorithms, hash functions and options e.g. hide the encryption algorithm, bit mode and crc32 from the encrypted file.
- UnHosted – URL: Not quite an anonymous network, but a neat idea whatsoever.
- NameCoin – URL: Decentralized DNS, TLS, NameID and much more based on bitcoin technology. That’s a very interesting project! I believe that it doesn’t get much attention because of it’s technicalities. Even for professional some concepts are hard to grasp at first glance.
Numerous privacy related projects are on the making lately, because of Snowden’s revelations (PRISM). If any new interesting projects pop-up, I’ll update this list and try to keep it as much up-to-date as possible. If you feel that there are other interesting open source projects that should be listed here, please drop a mail.