This Prepper is Building a Post-Apocalyptic Internet

Internet is great, but internet is down. Disasters, government interference and simple technical difficulties have often become the most powerful communication tool ever created. One man wants to change that and is building what he calls the “prepper version of the internet”. It’s called the Reticulum Network Stack and it’s designed to exist alongside or on top of the traditional Internet.

Reticulum is meant to be a streamlined communications tool that can be quickly deployed in the event of a systemic telecommunications failure, with minimal lift and a strong focus on encryption and privacy. This is all built on the back of an entirely new protocol that aims to be more resilient than IP, or Internet Protocol, which is a set of software rules that govern the flow of information over the internet.

“Many fragmented solutions and limited tools exist, but in reality, what was really missing was a complete communication stack designed to be used by normal people without centralized coordination of any kind,” explained the designer of Reticulum, which goes by “unsignedmark” in the Reddit thread announcing the project. “A system that would allow anyone to easily create secure and resilient wide area networks with simple and available tools. Systems that would work and allow secure and private communications even when [shit hits the fan.]”

unsignedmark is Mark Qvist, a computer engineer who has spent his life building and managing computer networks. “I ran a small-scale rural ISP at one point, providing high-speed internet service to one of many areas that had been completely neglected by the big service providers,” he told Motherboard. . “While it’s certainly not the most profitable thing in the world and quite a tough job, it was also very rewarding and an incredibly fun learning experience.”

Reticulum can run on just about anything, including the tiny Raspberry Pi Zero. According to Qvist, people with minimal telecommunications and computer knowledge could set up a long-range messaging system for their community in about an hour using Reticulum, communicating over any number of available channels with peers in the network.

“Do you want to extend it to the next town by VHF radio?” Qvist said on Reddit. “If you already have a modem and a radio, it takes 5 minutes to set up. I really tried to make this as flexible as possible while still being very easy to use if you have a bit of computer and radio experience.

Qvist isn’t the first person to create a community-driven internet replacement. In New York, the NYC Mesh project is building a mesh network that provides broadband to city residents. But what Qvist builds is different. While plenty of mesh projects exist to eventually connect users to the mainstream internet, Reticulum is designed to be a support in an essentially post-apocalyptic scenario. It is designed with encryption and privacy in mind, is open source, and is primarily designed to route digital information between peers without going through a server or service provider.

“Reticulum is an effort to create an alternative base layer protocol for data networking,” Qvist told Motherboard in an email. “As such, it is not a single network, but a tool for creating networks. It is comparable to IP, the internet protocol stack, which powers the internet and 99.99% of all other networks on earth. Essentially it solves the same problems as the internet protocol stack, getting digital data from point A to point B, but it does it in a very different way and with very different assumptions.

“The real strength of the protocol is that it can use all sorts of different communication mediums and connect them together in a cohesive mesh,” he added. “He can use [long-range] transceivers, modems, ham radio, Ethernet, WiFi or even an old roll of copper wire if that’s what you have.

For Qvist, bypassing central control and privacy is just as important as disaster resilience. “Without such an effort, our communications infrastructure (even if operating entirely within private overlay networks) will still be at the mercy of various control complexes,” he said. “The power to simply disconnect the entire civilian population of an area from the internet, for example, is readily available and has been exercised repeatedly.”

It is his dream that people embrace Reticulum and use it to build networks on top of existing structures.

“We don’t just need one big network, built like an overlay on the Internet, we need a multitude of networks, and we need to connect them in a myriad of ways. We need thousands of networks without kill switches or control mechanisms, and we need to connect them, both on the internet, around it and off it,” he said. “We need a Hypernet that is constantly transforming and evolving, reconnecting, healing and growing. We need to give people the tools to build their own networks, anytime and anywhere, and to connect them as they see fit, without arbiters, gatekeepers or external control. The internet is great, but we need more than just one. »

Qvist said Reticulum is still in its infancy and needs help developing and improving it. Indeed, the project’s documentation says it hasn’t been externally audited for security safeguards, and “there could very well be privacy-invasive bugs.”

“There may be security issues that have not yet been discovered, although great care has been taken to secure it from scratch, which IP is not,” he said. declared. “Because it’s a completely different protocol stack than IP, which almost every other networking software in the world uses, you can’t run existing applications on Reticulum. New software needs to be written that uses Reticulum instead of IP, and at this point the amount of such software is very small.

Reticulum is available via Qvist’s Github. There is a manual that can help new people start working on the project. “Although it is still in its infancy, it shows promise, and I am now quite certain that it can become the powerful tool I envisioned,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot more work and effort, but it’s at least steadily moving in the right direction.”

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