Anonymous P2P May Not Deliver -- But It Doesn't Need To
from the do-the-math dept
[A]nonymous encrypted P2P is just a few years off (and encrypted BitTorrent is already becoming ubiquitous). More interestingly, our cellphones are increasing in capacity dramatically. When P2P debuted with Napster in 2000, the average hard drive was the same size as my cell phone memory is today. Using technology already available, BlueTooth 2, I can share content from my cellphone anonymously — say, in a café or so. This will probably just accelerate, with cellphones being more and more capable, holding more and more data, and opening up to customized applications. I'm betting that a P2P app operating on Bluetooth is not far off for the iPhone, for example. Imagine the anonymous sharing that will happen in the background just on the average subway train! The possibilities are very, very encouraging.
File sharing will find new ways — any measure to stop it will be ineffective the instant it is in place.
I can't say that I agree with everything Falkvinge says here. Although it's true that Bittorrent encryption is fairly widespread, the technique is employed to avoid ISP throttling, not as a useful means of protecting filesharers' identities. And anyone who's paid any attention to Bluetooth's miserable security record — or who has just been frustrated when trying to get two devices to pair — can be forgiven for laughing wryly at the idea of the protocol evolving into something suitable for ad-hoc high-speed filesharing.
Falkvinge's optimism about anonymous P2P is perhaps the most interesting part of his filesharing triumphalism. In truth, it's a considerably harder problem than he implies: the internet is simply not designed for two-way communication with a truly unknown party. Sure, black hats can spoof IP addresses — but that's a technique that's only useful for a one-way communique, such as when flooding a target with junk packets in a denial of service attack. If you want a response you either need to reveal your identity or relay the traffic through a third party who can be counted on to keep everyone's identities secret.
This sort of relay system has been successfully employed by Relakks proxy service, as well as the Freenet and Tor projects, the latter two of which also add encryption to limit the relay nodes' complicity. But if Falkvinge is counting on the lack of prosecutions against these projects as evidence of the technique's legal unassailability, he's dreaming. Given that both Freenet and Tor are widely rumored to be havens for child pornographers — and the understandable (if occasionally misguided) zeal with which such crimes are prosecuted — it seems like only a matter of time before someone operating a Tor node is arrested for facilitating illegal activity (the infamous Tor embassy hack has already attracted law enforcement's attention, of course).
But Falkvinge's larger point seems sound: there's no indication that P2P can be stopped. But this isn't because of some just-around-the-corner bulletproof technology; it's simply a matter of filesharers' overwhelming numbers — numbers that, as Falkvinge implies, may be better measured by the rapidly-expanding count of P2P-capable network interfaces than by the number of humans operating them.