Hackers plot DIY Sputniks for Internet freedom

January 2, 2012 by Nancy Owano report
Image: NASA

(PhysOrg.com) -- Hackers at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin, which wrapped up over the weekend, are toasting the New Year with a newly announced plan for a hacker-owned satellite communications network. The anti-censorship allies want to counter the spate of legislative and government efforts that seek to interfere with Internet freedoms.

The new plan calls for sending up home-made satellites into space as part of a Hackerspace Global Grid. The project includes low-cost to track and communicate with the satellites.

Anti-censorship activist Nick Farr, bothered by the world’s threats in blocking the free flow of information, started campaigning for contributions to the Grid earlier this year.

Launching communications satellites has been attempted in the past by some amateur groups but low-budget projects have not easily managed the task of tracking the devices.

According to reports, a few small satellites have gone into orbit but usually for brief periods only. Initiatives like space missions have required the big pockets of large public agencies and private companies, but Farr hopes his plan can work.

Farr and colleagues envision a grid of low-cost ground stations to track and communicate with the satellites. They are working with Constellation, which is a German aerospace research initiative. The initiative interlinks student projects.

The Hackerspace Global Grid plans three prototype ground stations to be in place by the first half of this year.

Armin Bauer of Stuttgart is one of the enthusiasts working on the Hackerspace Global Grid and they are planning out the distributed network of these low-cost ground stations.

In their plan, the stations can be bought or built by individuals. The Grid team plans to sell the devices on a nonprofit basis for about 100 euros per ground station.

Bauer said that the team also hopes to give away some working models at the next Chaos Communication Congress.

While Farr has called for “an uncensorable internet in space,” not everyone thinks that is possible, even with the launch of such a grid.

University of Surrey professor Alan Woodward said that, even though outer space is not governed by the countries over which it floats, any country can take the law into its own hands and disable the satellites.

Another downside no doubt seen by those who focus on today’s security threats is that freedom of information imperils security. Farr said the only downside would be that people might be unable to censor your Internet. " are about open information," he said. "We believe communication is a human right."

Attempts to limit the unfettered flow of Internet information have included the proposed legislation Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. to efforts by various governments to curtail or in some cases shut down Internet access.

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More information:
via BBC

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3.3 / 5 (16) Jan 02, 2012
Oh boy. Talk about creating targets for military testing.

The idea is great (conceptionally). But it probably would just turn into the world's biggest spam machine.
3.9 / 5 (15) Jan 02, 2012
Oh boy. Talk about creating targets for military testing.

My thoughts exactely. I like the idea very much but I dont think this will succeed because I'm affraid that:

- few governments will authorize a launch for that purpose.
- potential big investors will be intimidated.
- the public will be indoctrinated that a free network is only for terrorists and pedophiles.
- the signals will be blocked (if possible).
- the satelites will be destroyed.

I hope I'm wrong on all points and be enjoying such a network in the future.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 02, 2012
double post
3.3 / 5 (12) Jan 02, 2012
Spam is better than censorship. There are spam filters that are good enough to defeat most spam. I know because I use one. I'd rather play cat and mouse with spammers than with the government.
2.9 / 5 (12) Jan 02, 2012
This is great news for organizations like Wikileaks who will post without fear of arrest or assassination. Information should flow freely and the world will let everyday people make up their own minds as to what is true or not. The internet is a magnificent tool for change, and as we witness world events of popular uprisings against fascist control, we should support efforts like this. Hear that ? That's the sound of corrupt officials quaking in their boots.
3 / 5 (4) Jan 02, 2012
Hackernet would have some slow ass bandwidth. Buncha space probes made of aluminum and duct tape. lawl
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 02, 2012
Wow, I find your comments more informative than the report itself.
Jan 02, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
5 / 5 (4) Jan 02, 2012
@verkle: the idea is to create an internet free from governmental or other institutional regulation. since existing networks are all controlled by governments and other institutions the only logical alternative is to create an entirely new network.

i think the idea is great but i do wonder about some of the same possible downsides / obstacles already mentioned in previous posts.
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 02, 2012
mattytheory, what on earth (pun intended) makes you think that this hackernet would be capable of stopping the government from hacking it anytime they chose? It's not like these homemade satellites are going to be high tech enough to resist being compromised by any agency with a decent budget.
3.4 / 5 (7) Jan 03, 2012
"Satellites? What about just some basic VPN networks using the existing grid? Would be a whole lot cheaper, faster, and implementable." - Verkle

Several encrypted networks already exist that provide internet capability via encrypted exchanges of packets directly between registered machines.

3.7 / 5 (6) Jan 03, 2012
"It's not like these homemade satellites are going to be high tech enough to resist being compromised by any agency with a decent budget." - Mourit

As long as the channels are encrypted, government can't hack them unless government has the encryption keys.

Jamming the communication signals, on the other hand, is another matter entirely.

It isn't so easy to prevent the exchange of encrypted packets over the existing network since identifying them can be difficult.

3 / 5 (2) Jan 03, 2012
This sounds like a hopeless project. Bandwidth is going to be low and thus very boring compared to the common Internet.
Its like going back to 1200 baud modems, IF it works perfect...

And its all been done before, by ham radio operators.
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 03, 2012

And its all been done before, by ham radio operators.

As I recall, that crappy movie "Pirate Radio" was based on an older version of this concept. Romanticized but not applicable.
not rated yet Jan 05, 2012
Great idea, unfortunatly most hackers are the last people that will put there hand in there pockets and pay for anything, nevermind a satalite.

also, how would they stop the hackers hacking it. Spam on a cosmic scale. every goverment would be reading the logs, the last thing any hacker would want is to be seporated from the crowd, it would be to easy to identify you.

"As long as the channels are encrypted, government can't hack them unless government has the encryption keys."

backtrack 7 or 8 i recon, the Govs have acsess to all available encription keys, anyone remeber what happened about pgp when first released
not rated yet Jan 06, 2012
Wikileaks/Wikipedia can give an idea of what to expect from a non-commercially backed global project, of questionably legality. Take a look at their continuous drive for more funds and legal accusations being throw at at wikileaks every few months, and personal accusations at the founder.

These guys want to track satellites and setup a global array of ground stations! I reckon it's possible but, like it or loath it, money will decide everything. If they take commercial/government aid then the whole project immediately loses its purpose.

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