HP researchers create browser-based darknet

July 28, 2009 // 10:08 a.m.

Tags: #billy-hoffman #blackhat #browser-based-darknet #darknet #encryption #freenet #hewlett-packard #hp #matt-wood #p2p #peer-to-peer #tor #vpn #waste

A browser-based system for anonymous peer-to-peer file sharing is due to be unveiled this weekend at the Black Hat conference – somewhat surprisingly created by Hewlett-Packard.

The so-called 'darknet' – a private network for file sharing and communication – is the brainchild of Hewlett-Packard security researchers Billy Hoffman and Matt Wood, according to eWeek.

Unlike existing darknet systems – such as the Freenet – Hoffman and Wood's creation, dubbed 'Veiled' requires no technical knowledge for participation, and neither does it require the installation of a client. Instead, the darknet relies on advances in browser technology to participate in the network – meaning that anyone with an HTML 5-capable browser can make use of the encrypted, anonymous network.

Coupled with the 'private browsing' functionality that is present in modern browsers – including Mozilla's Firefox and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 – the system would allow for use with zero footprint on the host PC, meaning that there would be no evidence that the darknet has ever been used.

Files being shared across the system – which could even be accessible from smartphone devices, so long as the browser is up to the task – are fragmented and stored across multiple members of the darknet, and are encrypted to provide a layer of protection against snooping. The system even supports the hosting of entire websites, with fully operational hyperlinks to other documents hosted on the system.

The main aim for the project – aside from lowering the barriers to entry for darknet use – is to allow easy anonymous file distribution and storage. Wood claims that the system will allow a user to “join the darknet, upload the file and then close his browser and never be associated with that file again.

While Veiled clearly has a number of uses that will make the RIAA et al squirm, Hoffman and Wood believe that it serves a legitimate purpose too: human rights organisations and government whistleblowers who need to get some form of secret document out there without compromising themselves could easily make use of the system without putting themselves at risk.

The pair are expected to give a talk on Veiled on the 29th of July at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas.

Does the idea of a truly anonymous browser-based darknet fill you with joy, or are you concerned about the uses criminal types could find for the technology? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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