Monday, January 16, 2006

Anonym.OS: The anonymous and secure computer so easy to use you can hand it to your grandmother...

...Unfortunatly, it moves about as fast as her too :-( It's a difficult problem, entailing a great deal of attention to both security details and usability issues. The group finally unveiled their finished product at the Shmoo Con hacker conference Saturday, with mixed results. Titled Anonym.OS, the system is a type of disc called a "live CD" -- meaning it's a complete solution for using a computer without touching the hard drive. Developers say Anonym.OS is likely the first live CD based on the security-heavy OpenBSD operating system. OpenBSD running in secure mode is relatively rare among desktop users. So to keep from standing out, Anonym.OS leaves a deceptive network fingerprint. In everything from the way it actively reports itself to other computers, to matters of technical minutia such as TCP packet length, the system is designed to look like Windows XP SP1. "We considered part of what makes a system anonymous is looking like what is most popular, so you blend in with the crowd," explains project developer Adam Bregenzer of Super Light Industry. Booting the CD, you are presented with a text based wizard-style list of questions to answer, one at a time, with defaults that will work for most users. Within a few moments, a fairly naive user can be up and running and connected to an open Wi-Fi point, if one is available. Once you're running, you have a broad range of anonymity-protecting applications at your disposal. But actually using the system can be a slow experience. Anonym.OS makes extensive use of Tor, the onion routing network that relies on an array of servers passing encrypted traffic to permit untraceable surfing. Sadly, Tor has recently suffered from user-base growth far outpacing the number of servers available to those users -- at last count there were only 419 servers worldwide. So Tor lags badly at times of heavy use. Between Tor's problems, and some nagging performance issues on the disc itself, Banks concedes that the CD is not yet ready for the wide audience he hopes to someday serve. "Is Grandma really going to be able to use it today? I don't know. If she already uses the internet, yes." You can try it here


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