'Web in a suitcase,' other technology, keeping rebels, dissidents connected

It's no secret that oppressive governments such as Iran's work hard to disconnect rebels and others from the Internet. What might not be known, however, is that the United States is working behind the scenes in these areas to create “shadow networks” of Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use in those cases.

One such development is what is being called the so-called "Internet in a suitcase" (above), which has been funded by $2 million in State Department money via a grant to members of the New America Foundation.

One suitcase in and of itself doesn't create an Internet. Instead, a series of such devices, relying on "mesh network" technology creates an "invisible wireless web without a centralized hub." Using these devices, the transmission, whether it's voice, image, e-mail, or any data, can hop from "suitcase to suitcase," bypassing the official network.

If it sounds like sort of a series of cell phone towers, it could indeed be thought of in those terms. Aaron Kaplan, an Austrian cybersecurity expert says that he has helped set up a functioning mesh network in Vienna. He added that similar related systems have already been used in Indonesia, Venezuela, and elsewhere in the world. His work will be used as part of the suitcase project.



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