Saturday, August 8, 2009


The Haystack project provides a new example of the viability of a computer network formed by carrying USB flash drives around.

The purpose of the project is to provide uncensored Internet access to those inside Iran’s national firewall. The Haystack program is built on well-known technology, such as encryption and proxy servers. But how do you get the program to people in the first place, when their Internet connections are being monitored?

For that, the Haystack project is turning to USB flash drives. A thousand of those may be enough to get the program, eventually, to a few million people. The Internet can be monitored electronically, but a police state needs intense police scrutiny to detect the movement of USB flash drives. A USB flash drive is so small that security forces can overlook it no matter what means they use to try to detect it. It is also cheap enough that, in a pinch, it can be discarded.

People talk about how decentralized the Internet is, but when people who know each other need an even more decentralized approach, there is still nothing that can replace an actual person carrying data from place to place.