Hacktivist group develops coding framework that can protect user data
By Oliver Young // Aug 04, 2023

A group of tech activists called Cult of the Dead Cow has developed a coding framework that can be used by app developers who are willing to embrace strong encryption.

That means no revenue from targeted advertising. (Related: Norwegian Data Protection Authority orders Meta to stop tracking Facebook and Instagram users for targeted advertising.)

The group has been known for distributing hacking tools and shaming software companies into improving their security. Now, the group wants to take matters into its own hands by creating a safer environment for users of messaging and social networking apps.

Called Veilid, the code can be used by developers to build applications for mobile devices or the web. Those apps will pass fully encrypted content to one another using the Veilid protocol. The network will get faster as more devices join and share the load – just like the file-sharing software BitTorrent, which distributes different pieces of the same content simultaneously.

In such decentralized "peer-to-peer" networks, users download data from one another instead of from a central machine. This means the apps won't be able to keep the personal data of users.

The tech activists have combined the works of free products like Signal and Tor and go from there. Signal offers strong encryption for text messages and voice calls, while Tor offers anonymous web surfing by routing traffic through a series of servers to disguise the location of the person conducting the search.

This effort seeks to provide a foundation for messaging, file sharing and even social networking apps without harvesting any data and secured by the kind of end-to-end encryption that makes interception hard even for governments.

Programmers may be reluctant to design apps compatible with Veilid due to limited earning potential

The challenge will come in persuading programmers to design apps that are compatible with Veilid. The potential revenue streams are limited by the inability to collect detailed information that has become a primary method for distributing targeted ads or pitching a product to a specific set of users.

But its introduction comes at a perfect time as more and more people are pushing back against internet surveillance.

"It's great that people are developing an end-to-end encryption framework for everything," said Cindy Cohn, executive director of the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation. "We can move past the surveillance business model."

Veilid is the most significant release in more than a decade from Cult of the Dead Cow, the longest-running and most influential U.S. hacking group and the originators of the word hacktivism, which combined the words hacking and activism.

Cult of the Dead Cow includes some of the biggest names in cybersecurity.

One of them is Christien Rioux, co-founder of Veracode, which made programs to scan software for buried security failings. That company is now worth more than $2 billion.

Rioux wrote the vast majority of the more than 100,000 lines of code in the Veilid framework.

The project is run by a foundation that has applied for nonprofit status with Rioux, Katelyn Bowden and Paul Miller, who was active in the 1990s hacking scene, serving as directors.

Bowden, who has spent years advocating for victims of revenge porn, said: "It's very rare you come across something that isn't selling your data. We are giving people the ability to opt out of the data economy. Give the power back to the users, give them agency over their data, and screw these people that have made millions selling period information."

Read more news about online privacy at PrivacyWatch.news.

Watch this video about EARN IT Act that seeks to end privacy.

This video is from the What is happening channel on Brighteon.com.

More related stories:

Facebook employees accused of "hijacking" user accounts fired after taking bribe money from outside hackers.

EU authorities slap Meta with record $1.3B fine for data privacy law violations.

Google and Meta caught harvesting your sensitive financial information through tax prep software.

Sources include:




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