Friday, January 28, 2011

The Government Has Shut Down the Internet - Part One

Egypt appears to be in the grip of a genuine open-source revolution, and the government has responded (as, I'm sure, almost all governments would) by shutting down the Internet, cell phones, and all modern communications.  The mobs were coordinating via social networking software, so it's not an unreasonable thing for them to do in self-preservation.  Shutting down communications beats shooting kids, like the Iranians did, right? 

If you're new around here, you won't know that I wrote about this last summer.  It's a "beginner-level" piece, and not written from the standpoint of an open-source revolt, but from the standpoint of government shut down of "vitriolic rhetoric".  I think it's a good starting point.  I'm going to do something I don't think I've ever done, and re-post an old post in it's entirety:


The Gov Has Shut Down the Internet. Now What? 

Tomorrow or next week or in a few months we wake up and it has happened.  In a move that was widely expected, the FCC has regulated the Internet and established a penalty on media that is not part of the state run complex.  In essence, the US government has seized the Internet.  We have A/N/BC/C/P/BS and with a stroke to their Internet lackeys at Google, Blogspot is shut down taking this blog and thousands like it down.  A justice department visit to Wordpress and the few others, and all independent opinion is gone. 

Google actually thought they were playing the administration so that "net neutrality" would get them on top of the burgeoning online video market; instead, it got the jackboot of the Fed.gov on their neck, and a threat to take them apart if they get out of line.  Sorry about loosing your billions, Larry, and Sergey.  But it's for the common good, you know?   Didn't Mark Lloyd say, "We're in a position where you have to say who is going to step down so someone else can have power."  What?  You didn't think you had power at Google?
  
So the web as we know it is gone.  What do we do?  There are several options.  First, I assume the Internet infrastructure will almost certainly be left intact and email will be running.  I think even mild-mannered soccer moms would take up arms if they couldn't keep in contact by email. 

Get anonymous.  This blog account and email address belong to someone who has been online for 20 years.  My name will show up in many Google searches.  I choose to remain anonymous here so that I can say things like this.  I imagine the Fed.Gov can track me down - and might.  But probably nobody except them. 

There are other ways, too.  Search "anonymous email" and you'll find a host of companies that will provide that service of making you untraceable.  I would prefer one offshore the US, because they are least likely to respond to threats from the US government. 

Mailing lists can keep us in touch.  We establish majordomo servers, preferably on many sites, with lists of liberty-oriented people to keep contact with.  Leave 3x5 cards on public bulletin boards  with messages like "Sons of Liberty, send email to majordomo@something.or.other".  These need to be handled carefully!  If the .gov starts feeling threatened, they will use their awesome powers of surveillance to capture those who put up cards like that.  Mailing lists were the predecessors of the WWW, and can be useful again. 

Use encryption.  In the early days of the net, the program PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) was widely used.  Without getting into too much information, PGP is a dual key system where you create a public key which can be put onto a public server, and a private key that stays with you.  The math allows you to exchange public keys with someone else and be sure no one else can read encrypted emails.  PGP is now owned by Symantec, but there is an open source version, GnuPG (the Gnu Privacy Guard) that is said to be secure, too.  The older DOS and Windows 3.x versions of PGP are still around, too.  Use a long key, the longer the better and there's no reason not to use one as long as the program supports.  In 1997, the deputy director of the NSA said, "If all the personal computers in the world - 260 million - were put to work on a single PGP-encrypted message, it would still take an estimated 12 million times the age of the universe, on average, to break a single message".  The numbers are little dated, but it is secure, and the NSA does not have a back door into it. 

Ham radio.  Do you have a license?  It's cheap, not technically hard, and no morse code test anymore.  If we're not living in a post-apocalyptic world like that depicted in "Patriots" the risk of using radio is small, especially if transmissions are brief.  It can be ideal for coordinating local groups.  If the transmissions are noise-like (spread spectrum), they are even more secure.  I hope to have more to say about this in the near future.  The basic problem is that it's relatively easy to make a system secure between two or a few people, but harder to make secure for a group to share, especially for a group that is ever expanding.  You can communicate with neighbors, across town, or across the US with stations that are almost invisible to prying eyes.  Depending on what you want, getting started could cost anywhere from the price of a few hundred rounds of  FMJ 9mm to the price of a pretty decent handgun: $125 to $800. 

Shortwave.  Shortwave broadcasting is still going strong every day, even in this age of satellite communications and the internet.  The programming is usually scheduled to be in your area in the evening, local time, but can often be heard when intended for other areas.  No, I can't promise Rush, Beck or any program you want will be picked up by and available by SW, but you will be able to access news, weather and other services that may be shut down by the authorities. We can broadcast, too. 

Shortwave is broadcasting, and therefore also regulated by the FCC.  It's not legal for US stations to broadcast to the US, but that is currently addressed by putting transmitters in corners of the country to aim their broadcasts across it.  For example, a station in Maine might transmit to the Caribbean and South America, making it audible across the southern tier of states, if not more.  From outside the US, beaming the US is completely legal, and that means it's legal to use a transmitter from a boat offshore the US.  By UN Convention, 12 miles marks the US territorial waters; arguably, a small boat that can go that far offshore would be able to broadcast to the US, much like the pirate radio stations that have sprung up from time to time.  A shortwave transmitter is another name for a ham radio transmitter.  There are open source modifications for just about every commercially made radio that would allow it to transmit outside the ham bands.  Because a 100 W station can easily fit in backpack, they are easy to set up for one time operation. 

There are already pirate stations on the air, usually found just below 7.00 MHz.  The most common frequency is 6.995 MHz, usually upper side band.  I strongly suspect more stations will follow. 

A bare bones shirtpocket shortwave broadcast receiver won't cost you more than $100, often less than $50 depending on features, and will allow you to get news from around the world.  Virtually all of the portables run on batteries that will discharge.  A new trend is for radios that you power by cranking a generator to charge an internal battery, or with a solar cell to charge the batteries.  If you have a set of rechargeable batteries, you can always charge them from your car (assuming you have fuel for your car).  I personally prefer analog radios instead of digital as they tend to have better battery life.  An example of a simple radio for SWBC is here:   I have no connection with Amazon or the manufacturer, but I have one of these and I'm happy with it.  The disadvantage of these really cheap portables is that they won't receive SSB, which the current crop of pirates use.  At this time, it's hard to know if that will be necessary.

This is and can only be a start.  We have a lot of options, down to the old practice of nailing leaflets to trees like the founders did.  The loss of the web and blogs would hurt, but it doesn't need to shut off communications. 

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I want to do more on this topic tomorrow, but for now, it's a pretty good start.  

Edit 20:05: text formatting issues that looked fine on my machine, but not on Mrs. Graybeard's computer.

5 comments:

Reg T said...

Kaito makes one or more fairly inexpensive (~$100) models that will receive SSB as well. I bought one when I was cruising the Bahamas, so I could get weather briefings. I think it was the KA 1103.

Graybeard said...

Thanks for the tip. For the convenience of anyone dropping by, it'sthis one. and, no, I don't get any kickback from Amazon if you buy it from this link.

drjim said...

I recently bought a Grundig G3. It was under $100, and does SSB. I was surprised at how sensitive and selective it is.
It's about as good as my first Novice receiver back in 1964!

TwelveB said...

They'll have to allow more than email. For one thing I don't think they can afford to shut-off all internet commerce. But even if they did, industry use of the internet is at near dependency levels.

In my industry we have to make certain kinds of public internet postings by law. All the government regulatory agencies have websites that we either have to access for information or to respond to various regulations. We need access to OEM sites for technical data and software maintenance. Our medical insurance interface is over the internet.

Data necessary for planning and operations is disseminated via the web. Policy and operational references and real-time system information is on the web. And Google mapping is used extensively.

We could do it all the old way, but it hasn't been done the "old way" for going on 15 years now and the transition would be difficult and slow, with the potential for catastrophe in the mean time....financial disaster for sure, and possibly even system shutdowns.

John said...

Online banking presents another issue that will get the soccer moms and especially the banks, rioting....bills won't get paid. Turning off cell networks would start a riot even in the best of times due to the iAddicts going into withdrawal.

I'll stick to my two meter Kenwood 7950, and Yaesu FT270.