Thursday, October 31, 2013

RetroShare: For the Paranoid in You!

by Dietrich Schmitz
(Originally published: 6/7/2013)

[Edit: Some raised concern about sharing their F2F key via regular email.  To use a 'darknet' method, try either cryptocat.bin or]

It's all starting to make sense now.  We've heard rumors that this National Security Agency was snooping around in our private affairs.

Turns out, it's been going on for longer than we think, like, since 1952?  That's the latest.

So much for the book 1984.  Should have been 1952.  Okay so what if George Orwell was off by about 32 years.  Still, it's amazing how he pegged the future with such eery accuracy.

Okay great so, now what do we do given that our every move is being examined like getting a colonoscopy?

You should now not worry what people think if you take extra precautions with your privacy, particularly on the Interwebs.  That's right.  Let them call you paranoid and then throw one of these stories in their face and say with confidence: YES, I AM PARANOID AND I AM FINE WITH THAT!

So seriously, is there anything that can be done on the Interwebs without having it owned and/or seen by someone these days?

Actually, I am glad you asked the question.  It just so happens there is.

An interesting piece of software has been in development going on several years now, called RetroShare.  Errrm okay, sooooo.

So let's check it out.


What is RetroShare?

RetroShare is the next generation sharing network, which provides:

  • Reliable Identification and Authentication of your friends.
  • Plus an Introduction Scheme which connects you to the friends of your friends, and facilitates network growth.
  • Encrypted Communication, ensuring all shared information is known only to you and your peers.
  • A Communication Platform which can potentially support services such as Secure Email, File Sharing, Streaming, Video or Voice over IP, Photos, Wall and Messaging
  • A Decentralised Social Sharing Network designed **For the People** with no dependancies on any corporate system or central servers.
RetroShare is built on GnuPG and is a serverless encrypted peer-to-peer network, but with a slightly different twist, called 'Friend-to-Friend' or F2F for short.

You see, this is a 2048-bit RSA-encrypted SSL tunnel through which your activity travels but every node along the P2P network is on its own 'private' channel.  In other words, there may be thousands of users using RetroShare but you only see those 'Friends' with whom you explicitly take the step of sharing your private F2F key.

Setting up RetroShare is easy.  Once installed, you send an email to your Friend(s) with a copy of the F2F key.  Then, they do the same, by installing RetroShare and sending you their F2F key.

The result?  Log into RetroShare and immediately you'll see your Friend on the private chat, and if you choose you can also share file folders with them and also emails.

Probably one of the most interesting aspects of RetroShare aside from being P2P is that email is a totally closed loop--just between you and strictly your Friends.  For an email to reach you, the sender must possess a copy of your F2F key and you must have their F2F key.

It completely eliminates spam.  And provided that you are only friending people with whom you are personally familiar, there's no loss of privacy whatsoever, in terms of your private activities.

Aside from eliminating spam, it's going to be really hard for any kind of eavesdropping on this system because of the SSL tunnel and 2048-bit length RSA encryption key cipher strength.  How hard?  Reheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheeeeeally hard.  Here is an example of how hard:

I fully expect to see comments stream in with assurances that this key is crackable.  No one has been able to substantiate such claims to me.  But please, bring it.

Feature Summary

  • Serverless, completely decentralised
  • Multiple simultaneous downloads / uploads
  • Search Friends
  • Messages
  • Forums
  • Channels
  • Voice over IP
  • Instant messaging
  • Groupchat
  • GnuPG Authentication
  • OpenSSL Encryption
  • adding downloads via website links
  • Plugins support
  • UPnP / NAT-PMP port forwarding support
  • Graphical User Interface written with Qt4 toolkit
  • System tray integration

So Folks, this is really is a nice implementation and I seriously recommend you try it.  Now that cat has been let out of the bag that 'big brother' truly IS watching (like we didn't know pfffft chaahhh), go get your copy of RetroShare and let your paranoid Friends know about it too.

We can all live in a state of paranoia together, you know, as the paranoid circle of Friends on RetroShare. ;)

Be Safe.

-- Dietrich

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