Performance Objective

At the conclusion of the course the student will be able to:

  1. Identify what Freenet is.

  2. Identify one reason that privacy matters.

  3. Explain how Freenet works.

  4. Explain how Freenet is different than Tor.

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Social Security Tip

The Social Security Administration is urging people to register in order to better protect their identities online. Even if you have not yet reach the age that Social Security is applicable, you may wish to register an account so that you can prevent others from doing so in your name. This isn’t a guarantee but it can provide some level of defense against scammers and thieves.

Brian Krebs has a break down of an attack and explanation of what happened on his site.


The Freenet Project.

Censorship-resistant communication. Freenet claims to be a peer-to-peer platform to enable and promote communication and publishing without the fear of interference. Freenet provides the ability to browse websites, post to forums, and publish files while enjoying strong privacy protections. It is a platform for publishing that does not and cannot silence the user.

Privacy is important. Privacy is a counter weight to the amount of force that others can exert on us without our consent. When a person is well informed about us we are less likely to be able to voice unpopular opinions, posit questions, or to take action that could be construed as outside the norm. A lack of privacy prevents people from being able to think for themselves for fear of being punished or ostracized by the group.

Freenet is one tool that can be employed to enhance your privacy, give you a platform to publish on, and to contribute to global discourse. It is not a tool for surfing the clear net. You should not use Freenet if your main goal is to post on Facebook, surf Youtube, or use tools like GMAIL. Freenet is for individuals interested in contribution and discussion.

How does Freenet Work

Kent State University has a very good explanation of Gnutella, Bittorrent, and Freenet protocols.

How To Install

  1. Review the code on the GitHub platform! You don’t have an excuse. You need to stop and look at the tool, how it is made, and who is making it.

  2. Acquire hosting on an external platform. You have a lot of options. I prefer scaleway as a platform because they are off shore. Pick your favorite country, pick a provider, and get a VPS. A $3.00 ‘starter cloud’ is a sufficient package for hosting a Freenet install.

    Host Country List -

    • Panama
    • Hong Kong
    • Seychelles
    • Slovakia
    • Hungary
    • Russia
    • Syria
    • Turkey
  3. Get the installer and get it onto your VPS. The process will look like the following.

     $ wget '' -O new_installer_offline.jar;
     $ java -jar new_installer_offline.jar;
  4. We will want to run the software locally. This can be done with a tunnel. Run this command on your local machine.

     $ ssh -L 8888: YOURSERVERIPHERE
  5. We then open a browser on our local machine and surf over to http://localhost:8888

  6. You will then want to surf over to Status->Internet Connection and get your ports. You can then open those ports in your firewall.

How To Setup

Setting up Freenet can feel daunting. New users are bombarded with questions during the setup process and will often feel confused on what is the best way to protect themselves while using this tool. Depending on how popular you are, you may need to make decisions on how you will use Freenet in order to best defend yourself. The ultimate goal is to run the system under ‘Maximum’ security levels while only connecting to individuals that you are familiar with. In practice this will often be difficult or impossible to implement without the ability to build trust and community with other users.

High Confidence

Set your security level to ‘Normal’ and use ‘High’ protection for your Downloads, Uploads, and Freenet browsing cache. You can be discovered to be running Freenet with some reliability but you are also contributing to the growth and health of the network at large. Set a good password when prompted. Do not post data that can be correlated to a person. Be wary of your mannerisms, screen name use, or uploading files with meta data that could be used to pinpoint you as a user.

Low Confidence

This situation warrants more ground work. Similar to how we may wish to trade information during signing parties, you will need to seek out like minded individuals, trade connection data, and use ‘High’ or ‘Maximum’ protection settings. You will want to network with trusted members and not connect to individuals you do not know. As the warnings on the page states, adding people as friends you don’t know will not improve security. You should also use ‘High’ protection for downloads and employ a strong password.


The Daily Stormer moved to a Tor hidden service. They lost their protection provided by Cloudflare and were forced off of the clear net.

The move of the Daily Stormer brought on calls to censor Tor and issues were raised about whether ‘free speech’ should be allowed if someone doesn’t agree with what is being said.

You should read the statement from the Tor Project that they made available on their blog.

Freenet takes a very strong stance against censorship and has a binary attitude in that they believe that all speech should be allowed but any speech can be challenged. This is the correct stance to take.

Attack Vectors

Freenet suffers from a handful of vulnerabilities that could reduce the quality of the network, halt access, or poison results. It is also vulnerable to certain physical issues as well. Information on vulnerabilities is available on the Freenet Wiki and is a worthwhile read for any researchers.


Shut it all down and turn off the internet.

Freenet, Tor, Gnutella, and any other tool that exists on the internet is vulnerable to the ultimate attack. You can shut down the internet and individuals will no longer be able to communicate without alternatives. It is a brutal and fast method that could be employed by a Government just as easily as by hackers. Even a mistake could remove an entire country from the internet for a period of time.

The communications act gives the President unlimited power to shutdown the internet. The United States began developing a method to shut down communications within the US shortly after the Arab Spring as the power wielded by activists on Facebook and Twitter demonstrated the danger of allowing unfettered access to these tools during an uprising.


Denial Of Service Attack

You can attempt to fill the network with junk data. Each system can and does only provide a small amount of space for others to use when moving data around the network. You could upload junk data and begin the process of making many requests for that data. A user with sufficient resources may be able to force peers to download and fill their drives with this junk data. This would drive down the speed and performance of the network and may force an exodus of users.


Users who employ anonymous networks will often produce traffic with specific signatures. ‘Odd’ behavior can be searched for by ISPs or others with access to the traffic being generated. If you are running the Freenet software on a server outside of your physical control it will most likely be possible for that company to figure out exactly what you are doing. A quick peek at HTOP reveals a running process with the word ‘freenet’ inside. It would not be impossible for a company to search for processes running with the word ‘freenet’ in their name. The resources require to break the anonymity of Freenet are immense and not easily wielded by less than State level actors as far as we know at this time.

Denial Of Service Attack II

Block all seed nodes and attempt to make life miserable for any users attempting to use Freenet in the open. If users must rely on seed nodes, it becomes much more difficult for them to connect to the network successfully. It also becomes an avenue of attack when those seed nodes are poisoned by bad actors. They may be able to bootstrap new users with hostile public keys. This could lead to them being able ‘surround’ the node and therefore be able to guess what data is stored on the box or manipulate that box to download certain data. This threat is very low.

Privacy Threats

The website Darkode was used by criminals to lower the barrier to entry for cyber criminals. It was once used by people like Brian Krebs of Krebs on Security for gathering information in near real time. Darkode relied heavily on Tor and paranoia for their survival but it was shut down.

Playpen was run by the FBI.

Childs Play was run by Australian Law Enforcement.

The Black Ice Project(PDF) made the claim that Freenet users could be compromised using a convoluted method to reveal the systems used to store specific data. The Freenet project has refuted the claims made and the source code shows that their method is flawed or a fabrication.

Well, this is alarming. Their entire grounds for probable cause are based on an outright lie. Freenet’s probabilistic decrement does not work at all in the fashion described in that paper (which is largely copy and paste from other documents, including Wikipedia). Five minutes of studying the source code would have led them to discover this. Four years of investigating and all that they’ve come up with is “hey, we’re stumped so lets just lie to the courts about this and hope that no one catches on”.

While there is undoubtedly illegal content on Freenet, it is much rarer. The lack of server side processing, databases, and the ability to use the tools available to turn a profit are all major turn offs for those individuals attempting to conduct illicit business. You are more likely to find ramblings, rantings, and complaints on Freenet. You are also better protected against vulnerabilities and browser exploits because the Freenet hosting tools will attempt to strip javascript, flash, and other attack vectors from sites before you ever load the page.


Is there content on Freenet? Yes! I found some very good radio dramas, interesting rants, and simple blogs. While there isn’t a ton of content, it is your responsibility to build more. We cannot allow privacy tools to be synonymous with criminal enterprise and should endeavor to enhance the security of the network by both providing space as well as injecting content. Something as simple as a site designed to regularly upload memes, funny pictures, or even jokes could be incredibly helpful in legitimizing the use and growth of these tools.

Search engines, indexes, and announcement pages are all available for Freenet.


  1. Freenet is a peer-to-peer platform for censorship resistant communication. It uses decentralized data stores to distribute information and also has a suite of free software used for publishing available.

  2. Privacy matters because it works as a limit on the power that others can exert on us. Personal data is valuable and can affect our reputations as well as be used to shape our behavior. Personal data can cause great harm.

  3. Freenet functions by allowing users to anonymously share files, browse and publish freesites, and distribute information in a manner that provides protection against censorship. Freenet works as identical nodes that pool their storage resources in a censorship resistant manner.

  4. Tor is reliant on many different pieces of software and provides access to the clearnet while also being more centralised. Freenet is more decentralized, provides in-house replacement tools for clearnet behaviors, and hosts content in a decentralized way in order to reduce the effectiveness of traditional DDOS attacks.


Privacy, Anonymity, and Authorship Assurance are still important concepts that we need to focus on. There are many threats that have developed with the sole intention of reducing our freedom, limiting conversation, and disrupting our right to autonomy. There are corporate, government, and private interests who are each working to end our right to anonymity as well as chill discourse. Information has become valuable to that point that many companies now subsist on the gathering of this data as well as dissemination of it.

It is your duty to contribute to the defense of the internet and the right to privacy. Each of us must take a stand by employing the tools that allow us to participate in civic discourse without fear of a heavy handed response. You deserve the right to hold an unpopular opinion, to ask questions, and to learn. No single group should hold a monopoly over discussion.

You can help build the future of communication by being an advocate for free speech, anonymous networks, and open and civil discourse. We should not allow our differences to become a muzzle. We must contribute to the health and welfare of the internet in order to reduce the chance that we will one day discover ourselves unable to use it. Don’t allow the internet to become ‘The Facebook Machine’. Develop your skills so you can ensure a future for the internet.

Final Recommendations

  1. Register a PGP key.

  2. Use Linux.

  3. Contribute to a privacy enhancing project. I recommend Freenet. Pick one.

  4. Develop relationships and build your own ‘Darknet’. Network in the real world.

  5. Contribute to Open Source Projects.

Continued Reading

Understanding Freenet(PDF).

P2P Attacks(PDF).