HP Researchers See Mainstream Darknets

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Next month at the Black Hat USA Conference in Las Vegas, HP researchers will be wearing the white hats as they demonstrate new browser-based darknet technology that could bring personal privacy back to the World Wide Web.

Some people fear it also will allow the worst in underground activity, but researchers Billy Hoffman, manager for HP Security Labs at HP Software; and Matt Wood, senior security researcher in HP's Web Security Research Group, believe it will make private communication more approachable for a wider community of legitimate users.

They say the browser-based darknet technology they call Veiled will demonstrate it’s different from existing darknets such as Tor, FreeNet, and Gnutella. Mostly, it’s simpler. It doesn't require software to participate because it’s just an HTML 5-based browser. Hoffman says it lowers the barrier to entry to a darknet.

The researchers are not equating dark with nefarious, although they admit there is potential. They see the technology being used for more legitimate purposes, such as secure whistle-blowing, anonymous suggestion boxes and protecting free speech.

Their technology is not the ultimate commercial solution for darknets, but the basis for which others can develop solutions. Veiled is describes by the researchers as a "zero footprint" network, in which groups can rapidly form and disappear without a trace. It connects the user's HTML 5-based browser to a single PHP file, which downloads some JavaScript code into the browser. Pieces of the file are spread among the members of the Veiled darknet. It's not peer-to-peer, but rather a chain of "repeaters" of the PHP file. More plainly, it is a closed network for sharing information securely.

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