In July 2015, DIY-developer Ben Caudill (working out of Rhino Security Labs,) introduced the prospect of ProxyHam, an online anonymity project meant to mask IP addresses for the purpose of protecting individual user privacy on the internet. Although Ben was meant to be unveiling the device at the DefCon 23 Hacking Conference in Las Vegas, his project was mysteriously shuttered, all development curbed, and chatter fell to a deafening silence. It is widely believed that the US Federal Government forced the end of the ProxyHam project because the device subverts existing infrastructure by allowing users obscure their own identities while pinning their traffic to someone else’s IP address. Caudill was able to confirm that he had no contact with the FCC during this process, and that ProxyHam conformed to wireless frequency standards set by the FCC. So the question remains: which body forced him to end the project, and by what authority?
ProxyHam is actually two devices acting together: one Raspberry Pi computer uniting a WiFi card with a 900 Mhz antenna, and one 900 Mhz antenna that receives the WiFi signal, 2.5 miles away. This package was meant to cost $200, and to work in tandem with Tor Browser (anonymity network) to deflect identity to IP linkages even further. Online Anonymity Tools are most certainly not illegal – Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and Anonymity Networks like Tor have been functional in the public sphere for years – but the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA,) a vague and powerful law dating back to 1984 that prohibits unauthorized access to computers and networks, is weaponized regularly to prosecute many different forms of computer hacking. Since its ratification in 1986, it has been amended thousands of times in order to expand its scope. The CFAA, seemingly an ever-expanding autopraxis for legal justifications, swallows projects like ProxyHam on grounds that devices like this one could be used to mask criminal activity.
This is directly stymieing internet innovation, while curtailing civil liberties. Even though it is not Ben Caudill’s responsibility to monitor all the ways in which his technology is used, he has been forced to shut down the innovative project because of its implicit possibilities, not because of its actuality usages. Furthermore, if government is forcing us not to exercise our ingenuity, forcing us not to make devices like this one, then this stymies growth for opportunities in Internet Protocol: after all, it was the first computer virus that begot the worldwide online security market, an entire industry now representing $77 Billion per year. Insofar as it is the miscommunication that defines the communication, we cannot afford to prevent inventors from exhibiting these loopholes if we want the internet to grow in its complexity, and if we value our online privacy in networks, then we cannot allow our government to enforce outdated laws in order to dictate to us the tools we can and cannot use to communicate with one another directly, or indirectly.
WIRED: Online Anonymity Project ProxyHam Mysteriously Vanishes
DigitalTrends: Be more anonymous with ProxyHam, the box that puts a mile between you and your IP address