US Govt suspected of shutting down new WiFi router for whistleblowers

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smellls funny

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I’m actually not sure why this is an issue for the gubmint. Pretty much any COTs wifi units can be set up to do this. The only thing “special” is the 900Mhz in the mix, so you’d need boxes with mini-PCI slots, but… so what?


Errata Security: ProxyHam conspiracy is nonsense

The talk was hype to begin with. You can buy a 900 MHz bridge from Ubquiti for $125 (or MicroTik device for $129) and attach it to a Raspberry Pi. How you'd do this is obvious. It's a good DEF CON talk, because it's the application that important, but the technical principles here are extremely basic.

So the question remains, why are they being cagey about it?

Maybe looking for free advertising?

Maybe they did get shut down by a TLA (Three Letter Agency) who just happens to have a middle-management type who wants to make a name for himself (it’s always a guy) internally but is actually dumber than a box of rocks? The alleged destruction of the prototypes points in that direction anyway.

Or maybe said TLA is flexing their muscles to the security crowd to say “Don’t help whistle-blowers!” (Still dumber than a box of rocks if they’ve never heard of the Streisand effect.)

Seems like we’re in the “Then they fight you” stage, except that while “They” is reasonably self-defining, the “you” in this case is, in one form or another, the entirety of the planet’s population!


But it was in such a cool package. No one would suspect a box of chinese take-out with UHF antennas sticking out on all sides.

I’d be surprised if they didn’t bring out the bomb squad to detonate it :wink:


Don’t see why someone would get an NSL for this. Someone else is just going to try it.

Buying a router designed for the express purpose of masking IP seems like a great way to paint a bulls-eye on yourself. I’d much rather configure something off the shelf or just use one of the several dozen plug-ins on my laptop of tablet. If the Feds killed this, it ranges from futile to counterproductive (assuming they could get a hold of a buyers list.

The far more likely explanation is that this product was always snake-oil bullshit.


In the past couple of days, there have been a plethora of folks posting their own version of the ProxyHam…




I’m not really familiar with these things. What exactly does this do? If sounds like it allows you to be physically farther away from your router so that your actual physical location is harder to determine? And maybe, depending on where you plug it in, it could use a public wifi network (Starbucks) so that the public wifi network’s IP address is the one logged. Is that right? It doesn’t sound like it’s a really big deal. What am I missing?

I suppose I’d say that “the big deal” is offering it all as a cheap off-the-shelf product that anybody could buy and use, instead of needing to be one of the few hundred hackers who would know to, and how to, do this themselves.

Except that it’s not a few hundred, every major city has thousands of people who could do this easily! I’d almost think Robo-whomever (I don’t keep track of all the garage “security” operations out there) did this just as a way to call attention to the need for such a thing. Perhaps a conversation like this:

R1: Hmm, lots of people have heard of Defcon but not many actually go, and hardly any are whistle-blowers, how do we get the word out?

R2: Maybe if we pretended a TLA cared about this it would hit The Hacker News channel(s) and lots of people who know this isn’t A Big Deal will start thinking about it and at least a few will know potential whistle-blowers!

R1: Genius!

R2: With the added benefit that there will be a whole lot of designs like this out there then and presumably at least some will be better secured than this Ubiquiti…

But what do you mean by “it’s not”? Of course, countless people could do this, but so far as I am aware, hardly anybody actually does. Which is what I meant as the distinction between knowing to do it, an knowing how to do it.

Right, because there’s typically no need for it, just as most people don’t restore 57 Chevies in their spare time, but if it became An Important Thing to do so en masse, then many would pitch in and there’d be fleets of them rolling down the roads, including scratch-built look-alikes when the original stock ran out. Similarly, if somebody with the ability knows somebody with the need, they can lend a hand at will.

Which is why this is a little confusing, or at least multi-faceted. All these shenanigans simply put a spot-light on the need and helps spread the word to bring all parties closer together, presumably not what a “concerned” TLA would want.

Thought. Something smaller, grossly simplified and slower, but working in a very similar way, could be made of a beefier Internet-of-Things chip with wifi, and a 915 MHz packet radio chip.

For the first attempt, I’d go for e.g. this for the 915 MHz part…

…and this for the wifi part…

Write firmware for the STM32F4 core of the wifi chip that proxies packets through serial line, some rudimentary modem-like software, and a way to handle the RFM22B packet radio as a serial line. Essentially to act as a modem/PPP server. (And another RFM22B on the other side, on a SPI-USB interface, and some code to make it act as a serial port.) And decent antennas for range.

Voila, a virtually disposable ~$20 radio proxy.

Do explain since they were selling it at DEFCON, which is a cash and carry place.

Because they’d tell you if they did (or the world)?

It’s just PR

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