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Building a Subversive Grassroots Network

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Subversive grassroots networks

Photo courtesy of Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

Commotion Wireless is the Open Technology Initiative's effort to develop mobile ad hoc networks (MANETs) so that citizens of oppressive governments can maintain digital communications in the face of Internet blackouts.

Commotion envisions building software packages for cell phones, laptops, and wireless routers to enable on-the-fly support of both Wi-Fi and cellular networks. Each computer and cell phone in a MANET also must function as a router, transmitting information on behalf of other users so data can be relayed across the network. This means the network has to know the optimal route between any two devices, and to do this Commotion plans to use the Optimized Link State Routing (OLSR) protocol.

OLSR tells each network device to beam a "hello" signal to all the other devices in range so that a neighborhood map for each device can be plotted out, and then the protocol combines all these maps into an overall network map, which is refreshed about every two seconds. Commotion also needs to ensure that the MANETs are secure and anonymous, and it will be adding a piece of software known as Tor that conceals the sources and destinations of network traffic.

From IEEE Spectrum
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