January 28, 2006
A friend, who shall remain nameless, has recently moved to a country, which shall also remain nameless (I'll only say that it used to be part of the former Soviet Union). One of the issues that the people of this country (and now my friend) are dealing with are this country's draconian controls over email and internet (no, for the record, he has really not moved to the United States).
Slashdot (Motto: "News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters.") has a recent post that may help to solve my friend's problems. According to the Slashdot post, privacy experts have created a bootable CD based on OpenBSD (a free Unix- or GNU/Linux-like operating system) that is carefully constructed to allow users to surf anonymously from any computer anywhere. The CD maintains the users anonymity on the internet by dividing all communications into small packets, encrypting them, and sending them back and forth in separate pieces via the Tor dedicated network of "onion routers", which ensures anonymity.
The main problem, apparently, is that the service is slow. Between all the encryption and the limited number of servers around the world, Anonym.OS is not well-suited for downloading mp3s or sending digital photos. But it sounds like it has real promise for lower-bandwidth surfing and accessing webmail applications.
Wired has a story with some more details. You can download the "live CD" at SourceForge.net. And just to avoid misunderstandings, a "live CD" doesn't mean that they recorded it in front of an audience. It means that if you put the CD into your CD drive and reboot the computer, the CD itself will provide a complete operating system, bypassing the operating system installed on your machine. (One especially nice trick built into the Anonym.OS CD is that the CD camouflages itself. The outside world thinks you're running Windows XP Professional.)
I haven't experimented with the CD yet, but I plan to. If you're a friend of mine and want a copy, send me an email, and I'll put a CD in the mail to you.