Current Event: Air Force Engineers develop BitTorrent sniffer

By ezwelty at 12:52 pm on March 13, 2009Comments Off on Current Event: Air Force Engineers develop BitTorrent sniffer

Original article:

The Air Force Institute of Technology has a new method for passive BitTorrent tracking. The system attempts to read the header of BitTorrent packets, and compare the hash in the packet to a known set of bad hashes. If a bad hash is matched, then the system logs it for future investigation. The system uses programmable FPGAs, and sniffing capacity tops out at 100Mbps.

Recent developments in traffic shaping / packet analysis have been largely spurred by large ISPs’ desire to limit user’s consumption of high-bandwidth services such as BitTorrent. Complaints towards users of BitTorrent include high bandwidth usage, as well as accusations of illegally sharing copyrighted material.

However, packet inspection at any level raises a number of privacy concerns, as systems at the ISP level would definitively be reading the data that flows through their network from an end user’s machine. This can either be malicious or not — it really depends on how ISPs use it. It seems like ISPs are highly motivated to keep traffic down so that they can keep their networks from becoming congested. However, no ISP customer can ever exceed the maximum amount of bandwidth that they are advertised to get. It seems like the ISPs are not being forthcoming about the real amount of bandwidth that they want customers to use.

Bandwidth isn’t the only issue, with litigation being handed out to file sharers. It’s in the ISP’s best interest to stay out of any legal issues they can, which also provides a good motivator for packet shaping BitTorrent traffic. However, given millions of motivated BitTorrent users versus companies with relatively limited resources, they are fighting an uphill battle that will not end up in their favor. This Air Force sniffing technology can’t detect encrypted BitTorrent packets, which compromise 25% of the BT traffic out there. As well, with projects such as OneSwarm, people can set up much more anonymous sharing networks between friends. The only way for corporations to survive file sharing is to adapt, like the Norwegian state broadcasting company did when it started offering its broadcasts as full, unencrypted downloads on its own hosted BitTorrent tracker.

Filed under: Current Events,Ethics,Integrity,PrivacyComments Off on Current Event: Air Force Engineers develop BitTorrent sniffer

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