RE: Re: Fwd: Taming the Web - Can the Internet be controlled?

From: Chen Yixiong, Eric (
Date: Fri Aug 31 2001 - 05:13:56 MDT

With reference to:

> The Internet is just a physical layer. To remain useful, it must offer
> services. Online commerce relies on safe information transport. Safe
> information transport relies on strong cryptography. Using existing
> cryptographic channels and steganographic packaging of said cryptographic
> channels over multimedia links in peer to peer networks makes centralized
> control largely illusory. You can't block if there's no recognizable
> location, and you can't filter if there's no recognizable content.

We don't just talk about whether governments can spy on your message in transit, but whenever you can actually remain anonymous.

In theory, governments with powerful enough computers can spy on every Internet packet you release and have a good idea of what you do, just by the IP address and other infomation in the packet header alone. Even if you use encryption, your packet must have headers for it to get to where you want it to go.

With such packet sniffing at strategic points on the Net (such as each country's gateways to the rest of the Net) and comparing it with seized web logs or even publicly available information such as the date and time a message appears on a message board, a government can incriminate its citizens for the transmission of data.

The packet sniffer can also reveal a lot of information about the pattern of traffic fron each surfer. Unless the peer to peer information network of the future provides access to only a very selected group of trusted people, the information about servers users can connect to will have to remain public.

Using the anonymous nature of the Net against itself and from an overseas site, the government can also act as a new user and use the software to find out information about the initial servers the peer to peer software can connect to. From there, it can find all these other servers and instantly ban their IP addresses, or at least the combination of IP addresses and ports with the unwanted service over at its own Internet Gateways.

In fact, I will consider it a miracle if such surveillance does not already takes place today. Carnivore, or DCS1000 (whatever they had renamed it to) shows only a very simple and weak version of surveillance software that can potentially exist. In fact, it only concerns itself more with mail traffic. If you wonder about web traffic, just checking through the logs of a Proxy Server at the ISP can tell you who did what at where (meanwhile banning all port 80 outbound just like what some Singapore ISPs did to all overseas sites).

Using Artifical Intelligence technology of the future, expect to see a lot of smiling faces at Government Network Headquarters over their success at tracing posters.

There also exists one possibility that we had not yet see on the Net: "Proxy-Spoofing". This term (that I created a year ago) represents a concept that allows one to spoof another user's identity provided it can determine what a user will do in the near future. On a plain-text connection, this allows the any devious Government (or person with control of the Internet gateway) to spoof another user's packet, somewhat like two-way lying.

We take the case of posting to a newsgroup. Firstly, the spoofer intercepts the poster's packet en route. Secondly, it drops this packet from routing and injects a new packet in with identical headers but different content, such that the data does not match the original data. For instance, the Government can just place an additional statement that contains defamatory remarks such that the user gets into trouble with lawsuits or with Government laws.

With encryption, it can experience some problems but not too much that we cannot solve it. With the method below, a nasty Government can still get its hands on the decryption sequence and do on the fly decrypting and encrypting.

A Government can also create a huge database of valid addresses and destination that it permits while banning all other addresses, citing pornography or other issues to justify this.

To get around the problem of banning too many of the wrong sites, it could provide users with a unencrypted-only link for accessing other sites. Censors or censor-bots can then analyse what the user saw and did, and if it determined that the site provides no harm, it can add this site to the database.

You can try sending an encrypted packet, but even if the Government router cannot understand this data, it can at least corrupt or destroy it.

In addition, Governments can create backdoors into user's computers via spyware. Under the guise of a free Government accounting software, free ISP software or something which spurs users to downlod the file, a Government can potentially monitor every tap of a user, especially if this user has a broadband Internet connection.

To avoid detection, the software can use the user's web browser (such as Internet Explorer) to send data, and working with a proxy server, it can merely pretend to access a website the user previously and frequently accesses but with a special header or distinct signature such that the Governmental Proxy Server will intercept this instead of passing it on as it usually does.

We don't even need a lot of data, just some passwords and private PGP keys. Once it gets into the system, it can also spread through the whole network like a network worm.

There exists a rumor that M$ wants to replace the current TCP/IP network with another of its proprietary design to "fix" a problem that originated with it providing raw sockets capability in Windows XP which can potentially make an ordinary computer a very powerful DDOS attack machine. We must take the idea that the Net may switch to a more traceable system seriously that will deny anonymous connections for fear of a DDOS attack.

What I propose here may consist of workable or unworkable situations, however, we must take notice of this and perhaps develop countermeasures beyond the current network system. This means that developing peer to peer systems may seem insufficient, but we may actually need to stop the passing of certain laws and International Treaties that threaten this freedom.

I do not know any new counter-measures not in public discussion as of now, but I hope, by setting all of you to ponder this issue, that we may eventually develop a suitable and powerful counter-measure.

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