[ISN] Hackers to release anti-censorship tool

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Mon Apr 30 2001 - 20:14:46 PDT

  • Next message: InfoSec News: "[ISN] First MSN Messenger virus"

    By: Will Knight
    Mon, 30 Apr 2001 13:29:41 GMT
    Cult of the Dead Cow plans to launch a peer-to-peer tool at this
    summer's Defcon to fight government censorship of the Web
    A computer hacking group best known for creating tools for hijacking
    computer systems is turning its hand to civil disobedience and plans
    to release an application that could scupper government and corporate
    censorship around the world.
    The tool -- to be called Peekabooty -- will be based on peer-to-peer
    network technology. This allows data to be distributed directly
    between computer systems and has attained fame through the emergence
    of music-sharing technologies such as Napster and Gnutella. Peekabooty
    hosts will cooperate in a similar way to Gnutella -- without a central
    server -- but in this case will share and distribute controversial Web
    The group behind the application is the Cult of the Dead Cow, a team
    of white hat (non-criminal) computer hackers best known for producing
    security tools that exploit weaknesses in Microsoft software. Their
    best known tools are BackOrifice and BackOrifice2000, which allow a
    computer hacker to take control of computers running Microsoft
    operating systems.
    A source close to the group said it plans to produce the tool for
    circumventing government Internet blocking at Defcon, the world's
    premiere computer security conference, to be held in Las Vegas this
    According to the source, Peekabooty will enable those living in
    oppressive regimes to access prohibited material through fellow
    Peekabooty clients located in more liberal countries. The client grabs
    the requested content and sends it back to the original computer in a
    compacted and encrypted form that cannot be filtered out using
    conventional technology. Because there is no central authority, unlike
    Napster, it would be more problematic to control.
    "[It's] completely distributed and impossible to shut down," said the
    source. "Users will be able to request proscribed web pages with a
    client through a distributed server cloud. An intelligent agent will
    be dispatched from the server to the web page, grab the content, zip
    it down, take it back to the server, then punt it back to the client."
    Although the Internet is often portrayed as an untamed frontier, a
    number of national governments put considerable effort into
    controlling what information reaches their citizens through the Web.
    The Chinese government blocks access to certain news sources that are
    thought to be critical of its policies. It does this by restricting
    the material that comes into China at a number of key points. A
    handful of other Far East governments operate similar policies.
    It's not just hardline governments that control Internet content,
    however. More liberal countries operating a policy to restrict what
    citizens can access include Australia, which prevents access to
    pornographic material, Germany, where Nazi memorabilia is restricted
    and France. A court in France famously ruled that the US based
    Internet company Yahoo! must prevent French Web users from viewing
    Nazi artefacts available via its auction site. In these countries,
    access to the Internet is controlled by making ISPs liable for hosting
    illegal content.
    There already exist technologies designed to prevent the authorities
    from stopping material reaching individual Internet users. These
    include the Freedom Internet browser and Web sites like SafeWeb,
    although the Chinese government tries to restrict access to certain
    services including SafeWeb.
    Ian Brown, a computer security researcher at University College
    London, believes that Peekabooty could prove a success once restricted
    material gets past Chinese Internet border controls and reaches the
    first host. Brown adds that the use of this technology, coupled with
    the growth of services like SafeWeb may cause the Chinese government
    to think about controlling encryption further.
    Yaman Akdeniz, director of UK Internet liberties watchdog Cyber Rights
    & Cyber Liberties said that trying to apply different national laws to
    the Internet has always proved problematic and governments have often
    resorted to blocking access to information.
    "Different countries have different moral and cultural backgrounds.
    That has been a puzzling issue." He said that defeating government
    censorship is a positive step towards freedom of information.
    "Any technology that allows someone to access the Net without
    government restrictions is good," he said. "But governments will not
    like it."
    ISN is hosted by SecurityFocus.com
    To unsubscribe email LISTSERVat_private with a message body of

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon Apr 30 2001 - 23:28:43 PDT