We had a real eye opener last week. Many people had trouble reaching Unseen.is (get your free account today), our new private and secure communications system, but some people had no problems whatsoever. It’s becoming more popular because the superstrong encryption is built in for ease of use (chatting, email, voice).
The servers were all operating normally; what could cause this problem? I won’t get overly technical, but I think you’ll find the evidence to be persuasive that we’re now entering a new stage of internet censorship, done a bit differently than you might have expected.
It turns out that three network routers, the devices that sit in the data centers that make up the backbone of the internet, flaked out at the same time and dropped many of the packets some of our users were sending to the Unseen.is servers. Routers are usually computers that are based on Linux and most of them can be hacked by the big security agencies. That three of them would have a problem like this isn’t just highly unusual, it’s actually something suspicious and indicates that they were being targeted to degrade our service and make our customers upset.
Based on screen grabs from our computers, it appears they can target certain sites, web pages (we’ve seen this with Before It’s News, but finally here’s the proof), individuals and regions and degrade the performance of the internet to prevent access. Most people will just assume “the Internet is having a bad day” because they will talk to friends who can still get to a site or story and assume something is wrong with their computer or local connection. If you can’t see or get something, you might assume it doesn’t exist, like an email you never received. You don’t miss something you never had.
I call this a “soft” Great Firewall and we’d been warned about this by several former military intelligence people. The switch can be flipped at any time and to any degree. To do this you’d need to control or be able to hack your way in to any router on the internet, including those owned by individuals. You should assume the major national security services all have this capability. Some services have their own switching gear at critical locations, I’ve known this since 1997, as our ISP at the time pointed out “the NSA room” that was intercepting and duplicating email and web site visit data.
Things have definitely advanced since that time and there is now a Shadow Internet, controlled by these spy services that not only hoovers up data and sends it back to the big data center in the sky. They now actively degrade the internet to censor it.
First, let’s look at the traceroute, the program we use to see if the internet is behaving or not. This program sends packets to the final destination, and receives delivery confirmation from every stop along the way. Doing this, we’ll know how fast it goes, as well as how many packets are lost along the way. Once you go over about 30% packet loss, we have a hard time connecting to the Unseen.is server in Iceland.
The first thing you’ll notice on line 10 (London) and line 17 (the last router in Iceland) are the large percentage of lost packets. This degrades the performance getting to the server in Iceland. Line 17 is the last router you touch at our data center in Iceland, it’s just a few feet away from our servers and you can see the other hops are all behaving normally. According to our ISP, the only customer that was having problems with their switch was Unseen.is. That shows targeting of packets based on a web site.
Notice the high percentage of dropped packets at the same time in London, over 40%.
Once our ISP made a fix to the router in Iceland, the next morning, notice what happened to the router in London:
Now, 88% of the packets were being dropped in London!! Try to get through that!!
Kind of interesting that as soon as one of the routers got repaired that the other one acted up even more?!? This is definitely a good way to block traffic to a site, just degrade the performance until people can’t get through, but don’t make it a 100% blockage. It would be a good bet that they also have tools to see exactly who and how many people are getting bounced from a web page or site.
We had another user in the Midwest run a traceroute a couple of hours later (they are on Central Time, we’re on Pacific) to see what was happening from there, as they had problems reaching the site earlier:
That’s a Cable and Wireless switch in Germany dropping 27% of the packets (line 10) and it had been acting a lot worse earlier in the day, this was the screen grab they captured. We had THREE routers dropping a lot of packets at the same time. Some other users didn’t have any glitches at all, people in India were not affected, but people in Thailand were affected.
Things are now back to normal today. The London hop is still a bit high and we’ve notified our ISP about this. Performance to Iceland is normally quite good, so this is definitely an anomaly.
What does this attack mean for Unseen.is?
First, we’re encouraged about the state of our encryption. It must be pretty good because it takes a lot of work for a security agency to do a truck roll in Finland to hack into our new product manager’s computer and then to control these routers to degrade the traffic to our web site. They wouldn’t waste their time on easily broken “military grade” encryption.
The other point is we will need to make a priority of developing our anti-blocking technology. It’s becoming obvious that the internet in the West is becoming more like China’s every day. In China, because of the lack of transparency, they have managed to hide a large scale live organ harvesting program. We certainly don’t want to see anything like that happen anywhere else. Watch this video:
One thing is for certain — protecting communications and free and open communications are critical for the future of the world.
We’re on the right track with Unseen. Get your free account at Unseen.is today.