Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/05/21/darpa_vs_block_lists_dpi/

DARPA trying to beat block lists, deep packet inspection

Strange bedfellows for extreme-porn fanciers, freetards

By Lewis Page

Posted in Security, 21st May 2010 12:49 GMT

Pentagon bizarro-boffinry bureau DARPA is seeking to develop a set of tools for internet users which are nominally intended for some military purpose - but which would seem at least as useful to those determined to get around measures designed to thwart copyright violators and extreme-porn aficionados.

The latest DARPA scheme is called Safer Warfighter Communications (SAFER), which sounds suitably martial. But what it is actually meant to do is "bypass techniques that suppress, localize, and/or corrupt information". Specifically, the SAFER technology will be able to bypass:

Internet Protocol (IP) address filtering or “blocking,” typically by blacklisting the IP addresses of websites or other services, possibly by the network operator, to deny the user access.

And also:

Content filtering that captures and analyzes the content of the user’s network traffic through deep packet inspection to check whether the traffic contains predefined signatures or sensitive keywords.

Block lists are used, of course, by hostile governments to suppress dissent. They are also used, though, to stop people viewing porn - in the UK by ISPs using the IWF list, or in other places at government level.

Again, deep packet inspection might be used by enemies of the US forces analysing their IP communications. It is also, though, an option for ISPs seeking to determine whether their clients are illegally downloading copyrighted material.

And while US troops do make quite a lot of use of IP traffic these days, typically it's quite difficult for hostile forces to intercept the packets wholesale for deep-packet inspection, let alone operate a blocklist. It's possible to think of situations where there'd be a military need for the SAFER tech, but not easy.

Of course, it's routine for DARPA to hang some sort of flimsy military justification on a project which has actually been selected for funding simply because it's cool: for instance the ongoing "Transformer TX" flying car push, nominally intended to fit in with US Marine small-unit doctrine. Evidently SAFER is another project of the same sort.

It is interesting, though, that DARPA's corporate ethos classifies the ability to circumvent porn filters and download free movies as something the human race obviously needs. And there will be some US taxpayers at least who will be quite cross about paying for this.

Full details on SAFER from DARPA here in pdf. ®