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"Wireless Meshnets: Building The Next Version Of The Web"

"Wireless Meshnets: Building The Next Version Of The Web" by Kevin Carter, Peter Valdez, and Kurt Snieckus. This talk was delivered at the HOPE X Conference in New York City on July 18, 2014. Video: http://tinyurl.com/wirelessmeshnetsvideo

Kevin Carter

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Transcript of "Wireless Meshnets: Building The Next Version Of The Web"

"Wireless Meshnets: Building The Next Version Of The Web"
by Kevin Carter, Peter Valdez, and Kurt Snieckus

The Internet is already amazing.

Why should we build a new network?
Tech Model Railroad Club, MIT, 1969
The Status Quo

With its unprecedented popularity, the nature of the Internet has shifted dramatically as political and corporate control have changed the landscape of the network. Throughout the past decade, the largest cable providers have engaged in territory agreements, thus ensuring that the Internet's architecture remains controlled by a few companies. Corporate lobbying and political backrooming determines regulation of our ISPs today.
The State of the Internet

There are multiple significant threats to the current state of the Internet, including the possibility of overturning net neutrality, the ISP oligopoly, and the surveillance state. As consumers and technologists, we have to remain vigilant to make sure our vision of an easily accessible and democratized global network can survive these threats.
Net Neutrality Faces An Immediate Danger

The FCC has recently allowed ISPs to make deals with sites to provide certain companies with faster service than others. This runs directly contrary to their previously held position on net neutrality, and it could mean that ISPs will be allowed to offer some companies a "fast lane." This necessarily creates a "slow lane" for the rest of us.
The ISP Oligopoly

Lobbyist money and shrewd business maneuvers have created an oligopoly of ISPs. This allows the industry to provide service that would typically be unacceptable in a truly free market, while increasing rates dramatically. These companies have been offered billions in subsidies to upgrade their infrastructure, but the US still lags behind in quality of Internet service.
The Surveillance State

The state of security and privacy online has been irreparably damaged by the actions of governmental surveillance agencies. Additionally, corporations such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon have made it their business to ensure that your private data is no longer private.

Based on the policies that these governmental agencies and corporations have enacted, security and privacy on the Internet as we know it is virtually impossible.
Meshnets: The Way Forward
The Good News

Wireless technology has become ubiquitous. Routers that were unthinkable 10 years ago have now become reality. A group of people who believe we can build a better system started a network called Hyperboria, a currently popular mesh network. A mesh network (or meshnet) is a network topology in which each device is connected to other devices on the network and directly relays information throughout the network to its peers.

The best definition of Hyperboria is provided on their site (hyperboria.net): “Hyperboria is a global decentralized network of 'nodes' running cjdns software. The goal of Hyperboria is to provide an alternative to the internet with the principles of security, scalability and decentralization at the core. Anyone can participate in the network by locating a peer that is already connected.”

Hyperboria runs on an open source networking protocol called cjdns, created by Caleb James DeLisle. The software uses public key cryptography to encrypt data, ensuring security and privacy of users' data. Essentially, cjdns provides an additional layer of decentralization, security, and privacy to the Internet in its current form.

Instead of relying on a centralized ISP model, meshnets allow information to propagate through the network using each of the devices already on the network. Instead of a star or a tree topology managed topdown by an ISP, a meshnet is a network managed by the users and for the users. A move toward decentralization is vital because of what’s already happened in nations like Syria and Egypt. With the number of ISPs currently controlling the Internet in the US, under martial law or in a crisis situation, the US government has the ability to shut down the Internet under The Communications Act of 1934.
Security and Privacy

cjdns stores its routing table in a distributed hash table for security purposes. It also uses stack-smashing protection to ensure that buffer overflows are prevented against.

Part of the philosophy of the project is that "security should be ubiquitous and unintrusive, like air.” One historical issue with security software is its difficulty to use or a user’s unwillingness to turn it on, but these are both avoided with cjdns.
NSA TAO Unit Intercepting Cisco Equipment
The Internet's Original Architecture

The brilliant group of misfit hackers, academics, and engineers who designed the Internet couldn't possibly have anticipated the incredible evolution of the network. Necessary retrofitted kluges like NAT overload, IPsec, and others have operated as stopgaps for unforeseen network growth.
Map of ARPAnet, December, 1969
A hypothetical design of a post-net neutrality Internet plan.
Map of the Hyperborean Ocean by Abraham Ortelius, 1572
Map of Hyperboria on July 5, 2014 (taken from fc00.org)
Meshnet is the topology, cjdns is a protocol, and Hyperboria is a network

cjdns isn't the only way to connect to a meshnet,. We're using this methodology because there are security and privacy benefits to using it, but feel free to try your own. Another example of a meshnet protocol is B.A.T.M.A.N. (Better Approach To Mobile Adhoc Networking).
The B.A.T.M.A.N. logo
If Comcast ends up taking over Time Warner, it will be the top ISP in 26 states.
Over 130,000 filings in favor of protecting the Open Internet, which crashed the FCC's server.
DIY: How To Join a Meshnet
Hardware: Router

Although there isn’t official hardware required to join the network, Project Meshnet recommends the Ubiquiti Nanostation or another OpenWRT-compatible router. Any router that runs OpenWRT will function, but it’s strongly recommended that you use a long-distance router to allow as many people as possible to connect to the network.
Hardware: Raspberry Pi & Accessories

Even the recommended equipment to connect to Hyperboria is incredibly inexpensive. The Ubiquiti Nanostation M5 is available on Amazon for approximately $80. You can run cjdns on a Raspberry Pi Model B ($40), and you can buy the additional accessories (a 4 GB SD card, a power supply, USB to Ethernet adapter, and two Ethernet cables) for about $30. There’s a starter kit available at http://nycmesh.net/blog/starting-with-the-basics/ Basically, you can get on the network for about $150.
Software: Meshberry

The community has made it easy for you to join the network as well. After you buy the equipment, you can download an easy-to-install Raspberry Pi image called Meshberry at http://nycmesh.net/meshberry. After running a few commands, your Raspberry Pi will be up and running and ready to peer with other cjdns nodes.
Software: OpenWRT Installation

The basic steps involve locating the firmware for your router, plugging your router into the wall, and then plugging an Ethernet cable from your router into your PC. You can browse to the place on your router’s GUI where you can upload firmware, then upgrade your firmware. (Note: these steps change depending on what kind of hardware you own. Please consult the OpenWRT page before trying any of these steps.)

You can install your system on the roof of your house or apartment so it has the ability to reach the farthest possible distance to connect to other meshnet nodes. The Nanostation M5 is weather-resistant, which makes it easy to install on a roof. You can also use outdoor-certified Ethernet cable to run the router back to your home.
Ubiquiti NanoStation M5
Raspberry Pi Model B
Software: OpenWRT

OpenWRT is open source firmware for routers that replaces the proprietary firmware your router is shipped with. Installation can be difficult, but the OpenWRT community is there to help. You can find a list of supported routers at http://wiki.openwrt.org/toh/start.
The OpenWRT logo
An NYCMeshnet Nanostation Installation
OpenWRT Boot Screen
HOPE Presentation - July 18, 2014
Think Globally, Hack Locally
Join a Meshlocal

Hyperboria is a global network, but individual meshnets that connect to Hyperboria exist across the country. You can join up with a local meshnet near you to connect to the network.

Some big meshnet projects right now are based in New York, Seattle, and Washington, but they’re happening all around the world. You can find a full list of mesh locals at https://wiki.projectmeshnet.org/List_of_Mesh_Locals.

If you’re local to New York City, you can check out NYCMeshnet at http://nycmesh.net.

Start a Meshlocal and Start Developing!

Don’t have a meshlocal? Start your own! Project Meshnet has a great how-to on starting your own meshlocal at https://wiki.projectmeshnet.org/How_To_Start_A_Mesh_Local.

It's also important to develop services for your meshnet. Any network needs services to connect to. If you can code, help develop services on your local meshnet so people have cool stuff to do on your network.
Get involved on Reddit, IRC, and Project Meshnet

Reddit is a great resource for meshnet-related brainstorming. In fact, Project Meshnet started on http://reddit.com/r/darknetplan! Check out /r/hyperboria, /r/dorknet, and /r/darknetplanhw.

Meshnet users also hang out on IRC. Join #projectmeshnet, #cjdns, and #nycmeshnet on EFnet.

You can also visit http://projectmeshnet.org for more.
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