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Usenet

Introduction[edit]

Interesting parts of Usenet other than discussion, include alt.anonymous.messages, Nym servers and Nym server URL Retrieval.

alt.anonymous.messages[edit]

alt.anonymous.messages is a public newsgroups supposed to be used to post encrypted and anonymous messages. Getting anonymity and encrypting the messages is up to the user.

It may sound like a disadvantage, but it is an advantage. In comparison, you can never know how many people are using an e-mail provider. Posting in alt.anonymous.messages everyone knows which messages got posted when, but when done right, no one knows who posted a message and what the content of the message is.

Do not use a web service to read individual messages in alt.anonymous.messages. Use an NNTP client (such as Icedove with TorBirdy). Subscribe to the whole newsgroup and download all messages including headers.

Posting to alt.anonymous.messages can be done using Mixmaster and when it is run inside Whonix-Workstation, its traffic gets routed through Tor beforehand. See the Mixmaster article for instructions on using Mixmaster.

Using alt.anonymous.messages could be suspicious by itself, but if you do it right, your adversary may not even know, that you are using it. Since the use of remailer is tunneled through Tor, no one should know, that you are aware of the existence of the remailer network at all.

Further information:

If you are serious about using it, you should study the work of De-Anonymizing Alt.Anonymous.Messages so you can prevent doing that same mistakes.

Nym server protected e-mail inbox[edit]

See the main Nymservers article for usage instructions.

Nym server connection sequence can be illustrated as:

some@mail.sender sends an mail to alice@nymserver.com

alice@nymserver.com -> mail server A -> mail server B -> ... -> mail server Z -> final@inbox.com

It is a kind of protection, a proxy chain in front of an e-mail inbox.

Or in other words, a Nym server provides an e-mail address, where incoming mails are forwarded through a configurable chain of mail servers (Remailer), while not revealing the recipient's inbox to the sender.

This adds several advantages,

  • e-mails can be received, while the e-mail provider is protected from pressure or force of an adversary and
  • where the e-mail provider doesn't necessarily know, where the e-mail address has been published
  • the e-mail provider doesn't know the sender e-mail address and can only see that the recipient became a mail from a remailer

It is my understanding, that the sender's email address will not be known to the recipient, because the remailer will strip it. (Unless the sender specifies it in the text.) However, the one sender of an e-mail is responsible for their own anonymity.

Another question is, if today's remailer really improve security. [1]

Further information:

Nym server URL Retrieval[edit]

Nym server URL Retrieval is a way to download a web page with high latency and especially when combined with Tor, in theory, safer than Tor alone. In practice, there may be no additional anonymity from today's high latency networks and you could end up being one of the very few people using such, in theory, great services. For explanation about high latency network anonymity see Anonymity Network article[2] Further information on the bottom of mixnym.net.

Further information:

Please note that, Whonix developer Patrick Schleizer can not answer support requests related to Nym servers. This possibility has just been pointed out and wasn't tested in practice. It is a whole different thing than Whonix and very technical, difficult with many stumble points. Please look for another way, if you need support. Setting up Nym is not Whonix specific. Success stories, use cases, comments, improved documentation etc. however is welcome.

Discussion[edit]

Quoted from Usenet Wikipedia[3]: "Usenet is a worldwide distributed Internet discussion system." The Wikipedia article is worth reading as an introduction.

There are binary groups and non-binary groups. Whonix itself doesn't restrict access to any of those groups. However, the Tor network is banned by some NNTP servers. Binary groups are not covered here, it will be very unlikely to find a free open NNTP server, allowing access to binary groups.

News Reader[edit]

You can read news groups either using an NNTP client, such as Icedove (+ TorBirdy) or an online reader such as Google Groups. Posting to Usenet using Google Groups is not recommended, it is (almost) impossible or at least very difficult to create an anonymous google account, which is required for posting, because Google requires Tor users to use mobile phone verification, which is not available for anonymous users. Google bans sms to web services as well. I don't know if there are other online hosted NNTP readers, which allow posting for Tor users.

Mixmaster can be used to post to news groups. When it is in Whonix-Workstation following the instructions in the Mixmaster article, Mixmaster traffic will be even routed through the Tor network.

NNTP Server[edit]

An open news server is defined as allowing access to all news discussion groups.

It is difficult to find a free NNTP server even for discussion groups. And no, we are not looking for a trial. Use search terms like "free NNTP server". The nyx.net list may be worth checking, I didn't try any of the servers which require registration. Ideally, the news server supports SSL and does not require registration, such as aioe or is available as a hidden service. I haven't found any news servers hosted as hidden service, they were all down. While aioe allows reading news groups, it does not allow Tor users to post. I haven't found any open news server allowing Tor users to post. (Use Mixmaster over Tor, see above.)

I haven't got NNTPS (SSL encrypted connection to the NNTP server) to work. Maybe it is an upstream bug.[4] This shouldn't be of too much concern. Everything posted to newsgroups is open to the public anyway. An encrypted connection to the NNTP server would only prevent Tor exit relays and their ISPs to tamper with the traffic, well, and login data (username and password) for password protected NNTP servers could get stolen. The NNTP server is untrusted in this threat model anyway.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. See Dev/Anonymity Network for explanation.
  2. Dev/Anonymity Network.
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usenet
  4. https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/ticket/8069

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