back to article This box beams cafes' Wi-Fi over 4kms so you can surf in obscurity

Rhino Security founder Benjamin Caudill has created a tool to help privacy pundits (and criminals) connect to wireless networks from a distance of four kilometres, in a bid to foil eavesdropping authorities. The Proxyham Raspberry Pi hardware box is a complement to toolkits such as Tor that mask the source of web traffic. …

  1. Charles Manning

    Using 900MHz...

    Well that's going to be really, really easy to track down and prosecute.

    900MHz is allocated licensed spectrum (some mobile phones too). Not only will the NSA be able to find you pretty easily, but the FCC will also throw you in a Federal hole for unlicensed spectrum usage.

    Not only the FCC watch either. Cell phone companies watch the spectrum like hawks because they don't want noise interfering with their business. They'd locate you and dob you in within minutes.

    Once the FCC have softened you up with some line that unlicensed transmission puts lives at risk and they can have you for attempted murder, you'll be willing to talk to anyone.

    If you're going to rebroadcast then use unlicensed spectrum. 2.4GHz is a great place to hide out because it is the wild west of the RF spectrum. Noise does not stand out.

    1. treboR

      Re: Using 900MHz...

      The problem is 2.4GHz doesn't go very far and doesn't penetrate structures very well. That's why it's historically not been much use and then particularly suited for short-ish range stuff like wifi

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Using 900MHz...

        A 2.4GHz signal strong enough to have a decent range would most certainly stand out. In RF terms it would like trying to hide a lighthouse in the dark.

        This sort of product is the ultimate naive wet dream of totally paranoid idiots. Using one practically guarantees that you're the sort of person who is up to no good (beyond violation of a whole bunch of spectrum laws), yet makes it very easy for law enforcement agencies to find you. They'd be laughing their heads off as they bashed your door down!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Using 900MHz...

      The band 902-928MHz is ISM unlicensed in ITU region 2 (Americas) making this perfectly legal for your average paranoid gun toting republican. Which is not to say any interested agency (or dedicated and skilled individal) could not correlate and locate the source of the transmissions in either 900MHz or 2.4GHz if they desired to do so....

      1. Graham Marsden
        Thumb Down

        Re: Using 900MHz...

        The other problem with 2.4GHz is that it's susceptible to interference from duff microwave ovens.

        I used to have a Sender so I could watch TV from my Sky Box in another room, but for several minutes a day I'd have to stop whilst my neighbour cooked their tea :(

    3. ckm5

      Re: Using 900MHz...

      Um, no.

      900Mhz is used for cordless phones in a LOT of countries. It's unlicensed spectrum.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/33-centimeter_band#900.C2.A0MHz_cordless_phones

      And there are several other bands that are unlicensed in the same spectrum.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Using 900MHz... @Charles Manning

      >Well that's going to be really, really easy to track down and prosecute

      I think you've missed the point somewhat. The perp will be up to 4Kms away from the source and with the audio feature will know if the device has been found so can leg it even further away. Also with the possible sefl-destruct capability they won't be too bothered about the source being found. The only thing they'll be able to prosecute is a useless pile of electronics.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Using 900MHz... @Charles Manning

        Methinks it's you who's missed the point (triangulation)... It'll have to be a two way link - with "a useless pile of electronics" at one end and an equally useless lump of idiot at the other.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You can still buy 900mhz phones in the US and Canada... I have seen models up to 2w power output.

    1. Ole Juul

      Yes 900 is still open for lots of things. In this area it's used for wireless internet. I also just got a smart meter installed, and they use the spectrum between 902-928 MHz for their mesh.

  3. David Roberts Silver badge
    WTF?

    Self destruct?

    So what triggers that?

    Someone picking up a nearby book?

    Somebody picking up the fake book?

    Librarian tidying the shelves and checking for out of place books?

    You would need a book nobody reads on a shelf nobody visits.

    Apart of course for yourself when you come to change the batteries.

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: Self destruct?

      Triggered by bad vibes.

    2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      You would need a book nobody reads on a shelf nobody visits.

      Looks like I might be able to sell some of my old books on topics such as Motorola 6800 Assembler Language.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: You would need a book nobody reads on a shelf nobody visits.

        I also wonder if someone should tell him that eBooks aren't physical books on a library shelf that also need to have a power lead running to them? ;-)

    3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Self destruct?

      Fly Fishing, by J R Hartley.

      1. Chewy

        Re: Self destruct?

        One of Dan Brown's word based book products

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Self destruct?

        "Fly Fishing, by J R Hartley."

        Automatically detect people carrying yellow pages and you know when to trigger, nice.

    4. emmanuel goldstein

      Re: Self destruct?

      i believe it's triggered by the stench of pig. or donuts.

    5. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Self destruct?

      I hope "self destruct" doesn't mean it bursts into flames and burns down the library. The cassettes in the original Mission Impossible used to emit smoke, but no flames*. In real life it might be difficult to guarantee one without the other.

      * I guess it wouldn't look too cool if the MI operative had to stamp out flames when his message "destructed" itself. AFAIK this was the original use of the odd phrase "self destruct", and responsible for the odd back-formed verb "to destruct". Why not "destroy"?

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Self destruct?

        The cassettes in the original Mission Impossible used to emit smoke,

        Cassettes? Portabe tape recorders, or were you perhaps referring to the movie based on the original Mission Impossible TV series, grasshopper?

        1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: Self destruct?

          I was thinking of the TV series, but my memory of TV 50 years ago isn't clear enough to recall exactly what the device was. I was going to admit that it couldn't have been a cassette, but it turns out the Compact Cassette was launched in 1965, and Mission Impossible was on TV from 1966.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: Self destruct?

            Compact cassette would be possible (BTW, it was launched in 1963, not 1965), but MI used tape recorders. I remember several instances of the tape running off the supply reel just after the "This tape will self-destruct within ten seconds" message.

    6. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Self destruct?

      "You would need a book nobody reads on a shelf nobody visits."

      Or a friendly librarian. Libraries are a hotbed of anarchists intent on preserving civil liberties.

      1. x 7

        Re: Self destruct?

        " Libraries are a hotbed of anarchists intent on preserving civil liberties."

        the naive commie girl in "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold" springs to mind

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Insane

    Assuming the user is not a criminal (in the strict sense of the word), it's sad that people would need such a device in a western democracy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Insane

      I didn't think they were sugesting use in a democracy, probably for use in the states.

  5. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    HD on!

    If you're in the heart of Silicon Valley, this might be your key freeing yourself from Comcast "up to" speeds and AT&T "don't care" speeds. Maybe it's fast enough to stream a movie.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I frankly don't see how any such device will last long. The moment a hotspot owner notices a traffic spike, they'll suspect a piggybacker, and it's not really expensive to employ a radio sniffer to triangulate and pinpoint the culprit. Plus, as someone noted, unless one can umbilical it, how long will the thing last on batteries?

    1. keithpeter
      Windows

      libraries

      "The moment a hotspot owner notices a traffic spike, they'll suspect a piggybacker, and it's not really expensive to employ a radio sniffer to triangulate and pinpoint the culprit."

      @AC

      You don't know much about library staff do you?

      Seriously: quite sensibly my local public libraries throttle the un-authenticated wifi to around 80Kbytes/sec. You can get full speed (something like 1 to 2 Mbyte/sec but possibly that is just the top speed of my wifi card in this old Thinkpad) by authenticating and buying an access code for a certain period of time. Sounds fine to me - make a bit of money to offset the costs &c. The ones who just want to hop on to do email, update their status, or run an rdp session (latency is fine) can use the slower speed.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: libraries

        Don't think about the librarians. Think about the IT people working behind the counter at the access point. Since their network access is either delegated by the government or leased and therefore metered, they will have an obligation, one way or the other, to manage the traffic to keep on the lookout for abuses. Now, if the traffic capped at some absurd sub-Mbit/sec rate, then you're right; anyone trying to abuse such a low rate would be no more than a nuisance and would only raise awareness if library-goers start complaining of dropped connections. But if a subscriber starts hammering the connection for long periods, that should be enough to trip watchdogs and at least post a notice to take a closer look. Point is, such a device isn't going to be of much use. ANYWHERE there's an open Wi-Fi spot, people are going to notice it, especially since many devices are on the lookout for open spots so as to divert from low mobile data allowances. Eventually, one of two things happen: either it gets hammered on a low bandwidth allowance and becomes clogged or it draws enough attention that someone's going to investigate.

        1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: libraries

          Think about the IT people working behind the counter at the access point.

          So the counter staff in Starbucks are really IT people? Understandable, as they certainly don't know how to make coffee.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: libraries @Charles 9

          I'm not one of the ones downvoting you, but you seem to have quite a different view on wi-fi access than most of us have experience.

          I assume it's different over there in the USA...

          From a UK perspective:

          Paraphrasing:

          -- "Open wifi spots being noticed and becoming hammered"

          Open-wifi without restrictions are everywhere. Even the local hospital where you can happily access if from the large unmonitored car parks.

          - "IT staff will notice"

          Maybe in big libraries. Most of the places with free wifi don't have anyone looking after it.

          - "Limits / Mobile costs"

          No limits or caps, even on most non-residential services.

          Mobile internet? £15 for unlimited 30 days, no contract required.

          Add the hassle to the cost of petrol here, and it's just not worth exploiting

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Fail of fails.

      @AC

      And why on earth would there be a traffic spike? The use case is anyonmous/darknet browsing activity not torrenting or warez unless a total moron uses it.

      Plus - how many librarians both to check their usage logs EVER?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Fail of fails.

        "And why on earth would there be a traffic spike?"

        Murphy's Law. Soon as some lowlife spots an open relay, they'll hammer it, guaran-damn-teed.

        "The use case is anyonmous/darknet browsing activity not torrenting or warez unless a total moron uses it."

        I rest my case.

        "Plus - how many librarians both to check their usage logs EVER?"

        You assume a library is staffed only by librarians. Like I said, if anyplace has a network, there's usually at least one IT guy set up to manage it (and, if all else fails, to take the fall if something goes wrong). Especially in a place like a library which in most places is government-run and therefore will be watched over. If not, it's probably on a business plan where all traffic is metered. Either way, there will be a case for traffic abuse being noted (either the watchdogs will come calling or they'll have to pay the bill).

        1. The Mole

          Re: Fail of fails.

          In the UK librarians (as opposed to volunteers) are increasingly rare in libraries, there will be IT staff in the central office who will nominally be looking after the IT infrastructure, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Wifi was subcontracted out to a third party to operate, probably with some form of unlimitted/Gigabytes plan. A single person connecting from a long way away is not going to add any traffic spikes above what a single additional person connecting locally will do. The contractor won't care even if they did as they aren't spending their own money to monitor it. The wifi will no more be watched over than the taps are watched over by an onsite plumber...

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Fail of fails.

            "I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Wifi was subcontracted out to a third party to operate, probably with some form of unlimitted/Gigabytes plan."

            And I would be amazed an ISP would be offering unlimited traffic to a non-residential customer. Most firms I know meter, and some meter even to residential customers. After all, they have to pay their upstream providers, and metering is the norm there, if at the least to negotiate peering agreements between other providers on that level.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Fail of fails.

              My ISP does.. Non-residential internet connection for my business... sure it costs more than residential package, but then I don't slow down when the kiddies get home from school!

          2. Random Handle

            Re: Fail of fails.

            >In the UK librarians (as opposed to volunteers) are increasingly rare in libraries

            In the UK libraries are increasingly rare.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Fail of fails.

          Murphy's Law. Soon as some lowlife spots an open relay, they'll hammer it, guaran-damn-teed.

          Given that it retransmits at 900MHz, you'll need a matching transceiver at the user end. It won't show up on the average punter's laptop/tablet's access point list.

  7. Shaun 2

    Missed a trick........

    Now if these were light enough to be carried by a quadcopter, you could fly it down onto the roof of your local café, use the wifi for a bit, then fly it back home once you're done checking your email...... And if you switched to 2.4Ghz as previously mentioned, your questionable radio activity could easily be explained by the copter's video signal...........

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Missed a trick........

      Add deploy-able thin-film solar panels to recharge the batteries and power the relay...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Missed a trick........

      Deploying bridge now.

      I had this idea back along, equip a small RC car with an IP camera in FPV mode, have it connect via open wireless points and control it through redundant links (433MHz, WiFi, GSM ), have it drive round the urban roads at night mostly hidden under parked cars. Not sure what the legit reasons for personal use would be but it could be an urbex challenge to go from one end of town to the other mostly on the public roads undetected.

      Move slowly enough in the areas covered by CCTV to not trigger motion detection, or have a tuna dispenser and move surrounded by arguing cats.

      Obviously the Police will have them soon enough, that small animal you thought you saw the night your car was GPS tagged...

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Missed a trick........

        have it drive round the urban roads at night mostly hidden under parked cars

        It's a neat idea, but why do you want to film the underside of parked cars?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Missed a trick........

          The RC camera is really low, the distant vision even from the middle of a normal car is suprisingly good. Half the reason cats hide under cars is because they can see people coming from a distance (feet/legs) but the person won't see them, if you are trying to travel seeing but unseen, it should work and people "know" there is nothing interesting or dangerous moving under cars so they mentally filter that area out. If you did see something fleeting it would be easy to rationalise it as an animal.

          Before anyone draws darker conclusions from this knowledge I bought an end-of-line RC car and stuck a Mobius actioncam (B Lens) on it for the first tests, I ended up (between crashes) driving under a parked car a couple of times and was both suprised it didn't seem to affect it and the video was not what I was expecting at all.

          The main thing I wanted to try was the WiFi hotspot (internet) video and control link to test various RC radio systems at failure distance without crashing a plane or quad, the hiding it under cars thing was to try and avoid some oik nicking it mid test.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Missed a trick........

        "drive round the urban roads at night mostly hidden under parked cars."

        All the ones I've ever seen tend to be quite loud. Not really stealthy enough for sneaking around at night when it's dark and quiet :-)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Missed a trick........

          Straight gear driven high speed motor with a cheap gearbox on the baseplate and flexible body as a sound cavity? you are probably right.

          Try belt drive, low speed, large battery on base no flexible shell.

          The motors themselves are not overly loud, the tyres on ground OK, the noise mainly comes from plastic gears on gears and the high pitched PWM motor control.

          You could have a large flat motor horizontally mounted, belt driving soft tyres with everything just slowly spinning. I think it is possible. I'd play more but where I live the neighbours would implode as none of this fits into the categories of TV, Fags or Footy.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not just a Tor exit?

    I don't really understand the powerful radio stuff. If you can hide a router in somewhere with an open network connection why not just set it up as a Tor exit node and connect to it from home using Tor? It could then be much smaller, be built using a plug-computer (which plugs into a power point) and have an official-looking label saying "Do not unplug. Official use only".

    It could even have a wired ethernet port in case there was a convenient nearby port.

    Of course, professional IT staff would find it quickly, but small businesses, cafes, libraries, medium-sized hotels, etc would typically have no IT staff of their own or the ones they have are so busy they aren't going to worry about it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why not just a Tor exit?

      "Of course, professional IT staff would find it quickly, but small businesses, cafes, libraries, medium-sized hotels, etc would typically have no IT staff of their own or the ones they have are so busy they aren't going to worry about it."

      Unless the firm involved has metered Internet, in which case they'll probably notice it quickly in their bills. Even if YOU don't hammer it, someone else will probably find it and hammer it.

      As for using TOR, recall there's a lot of research into sniffing TOR right now. An exit node sitting in plain site like that would probably be noticed by LEOs, MITM'd, and logged to track users back to their entry points and so on.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why not just a Tor exit?

        Both issues apply much more strongly to the proposed box. At least with Tor you get a lot of other people helping to work on the security (improving it, and testing it).

        And the metered internet problem is not a significant problem here in the UK, I think. My TalkTalk Business connection is cheap and unmetered. More serious is the slow-down seen by the legitimate users -- but they will just blame their ISP.

        Tor is definitely a much better option than an over-complicated, unique design, large (and hot) box.

      2. Steve 13

        Re: Why not just a Tor exit?

        How is someone going to find this 900Mhz traffic?

        And in fact, if it's your device that you're setting up to anonymize your connection, put a password on it as well... There's no reason at all that it has to be open.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    4kms

    Ah, good old kilometer-seconds. Tricky units to use correctly!

  10. Pugly
    Pint

    Actually I would find this really useful

    I work for an internet radio station, and the number of times one of my planning twonks arranges for me to go out and broadcast in a field it would be nice to have wifif from the pub half a mile away (with their permission of course) to use rather than dodgy two way sat or even worse 4G

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pirate radio

    This is a replay of the best organized London pirates of the eighties/nineties who used a 10GHz WBFM module atop a tower block as main feed to the 95MHz antenna. If ofcom ever hit the roof, looking to trace the audio feed line, they just ended up with half a LOS microwave link, but no pirates.

    These 10GHz WBFM are still on sale via eBay for around £3, but aren't much good for data.

  12. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    A) 900mhz is ISM in the US, *not* allocated. Our cellular band is at 800mhz, thankyouverymuch.

    B) This seems useless for the intended purpose. If you're not doing anything too naughty, nobody is going to look for you anyway. If you ARE doing something naughty, it's like "what's this weird box? Well, lets see who bought one in this area... 1 person huh?" and it'd also probably be covered in greasy fingerprints.

    C) I like the concept anyway, though, of a 900mhz much longer range wifi type device. I'd love to run a few of these between households, avoiding the cripplingly slow 1mbps upstream of the local ISPs (when I'm just moving data from one house to another) as well as no worries about data caps (although at 1mbps upstream I'm unlikely to put a dent in the cap.)

  13. x 7

    In the UK public libraries are linked to the local council network. Any traffic spikes will simply be lost in the overall flow.

    The problem with this idea is power - a cable disappearing into a shelf will be quickly spotted, while regular visits to replace batteries defeat the whole purpose

    1. LaeMing Silver badge
      Go

      Power is easy.

      Just microwave power to it from a source hidden in a ... nearby ... book!

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Power is easy.

        Microwave normally requires a pretty clear line of sight, owing to how the waves themselves can have an effect on most things it passes through, including paper. Now, if you can find a socket concealed behind a shelf, you can conceal the transmitter. But as said, concealing the transmissions will be another story.

  14. Extra spicey vindaloo

    My first thought was.

    Radio triangulation, it's a two way signal so I'm sure they would be able to triangulate the person trying to hide. This seems to be a silly bit of kit.

    1. Fat Northerner

      Re: My first thought was.

      My first was... Given access to the world's communications, by someone using the same frequency as mobile phone masts, simply listen to them via them.

      Pointless.

  15. a420bowlkilla

    They got strong-armed or something.....

    They backed out of the convention....Said they couldn't really discuss the reason....GOOGLE IT!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DEFCON Presentation Cancelled

    The DEFCON site shows that the presentation has been cancelled. No specific reason cited.

  17. razorfishsl

    Many of these 'Defcon' kiddies are just gaining recognition for publicizing kit that many hackers have been using for a long time.

    $200usd F*** thieves..... how about $30 USD, using a modified GSM 'Pet tracker' & WIFI dongle.

    or $40usd for a modified TV box.

    Been using such kit for a long time when I have to investigate Dodgy Sysadmins

  18. Enric Martinez

    What about LEGAL use?

    I mean, mate, I am not interested in Tor or any other Norse God, but I would love to be able to contact my home WiFI when I'm out running or shopping instead of having to rely on the paid GSM (we have 4G already but, hey, gratis is gratis).

  19. Fat Northerner

    I don't see why anyone is bothering to try...

    GCHQ, and NSA, you know, the organisations which employ people (who also have children and loved ones,) both exist to find out what is being said to whom, by whom.

    So as soon as you start playing clever buggers, you stand out like a sore thumb, and they have billion dollar budgets.

    It's just a complete waste of time. They'll still find out what you're saying, but they'll spend more of your tax doing it.

    We have no privacy, but so what? There are many, many people who've been under total observation by both these organisations, because they're... well strange, for over a decade, and they're still free to give their strange opinions, crack jokes about killing politicians, slag off their council or the BBC, or their wife, school etc. None of these people are political prisoners.

    Trying to hide communications from the mainstream just costs the taxpayer's money.

    1. Zack Mollusc

      Re: I don't see why anyone is bothering to try...

      @Fat Northerner

      'Trying to hide communications from the mainstream just costs the taxpayer's money.' - Yes, but they will tax you and spend it in either case. You won't get a refund or a scaling back of operations.

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