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Sunday, 6 May, 2001, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
'No limits' browser planned
Computer BBC
The music industry, the film industry, the police and repressive governments have a new nightmare.

A group of hackers are developing a web browser that it claims will make it easier for people to circumvent censorship and avoid the attentions of law enforcers.

The software, which is due to be unveiled in July, uses a combination of encryption and a Gnutella-like network to avoid any of the limits corporations and governments are trying to place on anyone using the web.

The inventors of the new browser said they were developing it for people living under restrictive regimes who wanted to see information they were otherwise denied.

Many governments, including those of China, Malaysia and Singapore and many Arabic countries, restrict what their citizens can look at on the web, fearing that access to subversive, pornographic or political information will cause social unrest.

Shoddy security

Later this year, the hacking collective known as the Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc) is planning to release a web browser called Peekabooty that it claims will make it almost impossible to restrict what information people look at on the web.

Peekabooty will work like the Gnutella peer-to-peer network that has no central server and instead uses all the machines in the system to hold data.

Members of the Peekabooty network can ask for particular documents or files to be put on to the network. When the files appear, the Peekabooty system will package them up, encrypt them, and then ship them back to the machine requesting them.

The Cult of the Dead Cow styles itself as a group of "ethical" hackers that use technology creatively to defeat attempts to restrict the spread of information or embarrass companies with shoddy security.

If Peekabooty is used by large numbers of people its use of encryption could make a mockery of any police attempts to monitor electronic communications.

Microsoft target

In the UK, the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act calls for the placing of "black boxes" inside Britain's internet connection companies, so law enforcement agencies can easily dip into and tap data streams.

Civil and cyber-liberty groups, such as the Foundation for Information Policy Research, have drawn attention to the shortcomings of this approach, and shown how easy it is to circumvent this tapping.

In the past, the cDc has won notoriety for its development of the Back Orifice and Back Orifice 2000 software tools. The programs were designed to show the security failings of Microsoft products, and can be used to remotely hijack a computer.

The Peekabooty software is due to be unveiled at this years DefCon hacker conference being held in Las Vegas in July.

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See also:

29 Apr 01 | Media reports
China internet cafe debate hots up
18 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Cybercops arrest online liberty
26 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
'Snooping Bill technically inept'
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26 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Toasting the crackers
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