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Gnutella Theory

By Nyarlathotep in News
Thu Apr 06, 2000 at 01:46:56 PM EST
Tags: You Know... (all tags)
You Know...

I'm curious to find out what people know about the *theory* of writing a program like Gnutella, i.e. the mathematical and computer science problems involved in the various aspects of hiding from colleges and the RIAA.

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Gnutella's current trick for avoiding firewalls is one example of a simple solution to the kinds of problems I am talking about. Using the SSL HTTP or SSH protocol to hide the Gnutella protocol is a better example. If Gnutella was modified to use SSL HTTP or SSH with a large key size then it's protocol would be polynomial time indistinguishable from a legitimate SSL HTTP or SSH connection, i.e. the router would need at least months on a Beowulf to crack your session key and discover that you were not a legitimate connection. This pretty effectively ends the discussion about colleges routers blocking Gnutella / Napster based on packet signature.

The school can still charge students for extra bandwidth or spy on the network. The bandwidth analysis question depends on the specifics of the bandwidth monitoring, but I doubt there will be anything the students can do to prevent bandwidth monitoring.

The issue of the RIAA or colleges spying on the network is a much more interesting problem from the math / cs point of view. The question is can network topology and authentication / reputation of nodes be used to prevent an attacker from learning much about the network. The network topology question can be stated "Can we build a network where the RIAA need to own O(log(network size)) (or maybe O(network size)) node of the network to identify everyone on the network?" The authentication / reputation question can be stated "Can we build a network which forces every node to contribute meaningful content to the network?" I think the answers to these two questions are yes and yes, but I have not really done any proofs. The answer to the network topology question should say "localize the network and just don't let every node talk to every other node. People will still be able to get the mp3s which are spread around."

Now, there are many interesting questions regarding Gnutella which are not mathematical. The question of "Are mp3s spread around enough for network localization to work" is a scientific question and not a mathematical question. There are also psychological questions about "will the RIAA be willing to run thousands of servers which give away mp3s to learn the identities of the people on the network," but these are not the questions I'm interested in seeing answered since they are not math problems. There are legal questions too, like can you prevent colleges from revoking student network access for using Gnutella by writing a Gnutella installing virus to provide plausable deniability. This is an ammusing idea, but it's not part of what I would call "Gnutella Theory" sicne it's a political / legal question and not a science question. Comments? Anyone been thinking about this stuff?


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Gnutella Theory | 12 comments (12 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
... (2.00 / 1) (#4)
by stimuli on Thu Apr 06, 2000 at 12:03:00 PM EST

stimuli voted 1 on this story.

Anyone been thinking about this stuff?
I haven't as deeply as Nyarlathotep has, obviously :)

Seriously, though, all these new forms of censorship (including by any other name) of free expression by big companies and governments bothers me to no end, and I'm really glad to see things like FreeNet and Gnutella popping up to subvert it. Which is odd as I'm usually a "take it easy and work within the law" kind of guy. But every time I read another story of what I call "attempts to silence opposition" I become increasingly convinced that we need to chuck their rules out the window and ensure that we can send what we want to whom we want, all laws be damned.

Which is clearly too radical an attitude. Perhaps one way of looking at it is that we need to ensure that we can subvert whatever coersive attempts they make, and then sit back and consider how we should restrain ourselves: to ensure first that they can't win by unjust power, and then find a rational middle ground.

I'm probably just dreaming.
-- Jeffrey Straszheim

subversion (none / 0) (#10)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Apr 06, 2000 at 10:31:46 PM EST

This subversion is already happening. I remember back in 95 when my uni took away my mail list because too many Bad Things(tm) were being talked about it was like a kick in the nuts wake up call. Took us about a week to write our own mail list that was, anonymous, distributed, and only required a unix shell account for each node to run in. When they took away talk, we wrote our own by taking advantage of Irix's shitty /dev/tty* permissions. The point is, they can't stop us. None of the technology we use was ever designed with an eye towards regulating usage, and to try and tack it on now is an exercise in fruitless stupidity. Gnutella and FreeNet are the next logical steps up from mixmaster and anon web proxies, I don't know what will come next, by I'm sure gonna try and write it. If only so I can say I pissed off a few petty tyrants.

[ Parent ]
seems like an n-complete problem to... (none / 0) (#1)
by asad on Thu Apr 06, 2000 at 12:44:29 PM EST

asad voted 1 on this story.

seems like an n-complete problem to me.

Damn, I wish I'd payed more attenti... (none / 0) (#3)
by Skippy on Thu Apr 06, 2000 at 12:45:30 PM EST

Skippy voted 1 on this story.

Damn, I wish I'd payed more attention to math in school. As I understand it (which isn't much) this is a neat one for discussion. Good writeup, Nyarlathotep.
# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #

Use IPSEC.... (none / 0) (#2)
by hattig on Thu Apr 06, 2000 at 12:52:49 PM EST

hattig voted 0 on this story.


Some Links (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by tnt on Thu Apr 06, 2000 at 02:16:21 PM EST

I noticed that: not the article, nor any of the comments so far gave any links, so I've posted a couple.

  • FreeNet (the Free Network Project) can be found here. FreeNet is trying to deal with some of the stuff you discuss. You may find some information you are looking for by subscribing to their mailing list.
  • Previously, in another post to Kuro5hin I mentioned that the Gnutella homepage had moved to http://www.allskin.com/gnutella/ . Well, it is actually at gnutella.nerdherd.net. They seemed to have something planned in about four days.

     Charles Iliya Krempeaux, B.Sc.
  Kuro5hin user #279

Re: Some Links (none / 0) (#7)
by fvw on Thu Apr 06, 2000 at 06:57:53 PM EST

Completely ot, but still: You shouldn't trust the counter on the gnutella.nerdherd page:
  • It always increments by 2, thus always giving uneven numbers. This makes me doubt if it started from zero too. Tsk, some people.
  • In the process of discovering point 1 I reloaded the image tons of times :-)

[ Parent ]
Re: Some Links (none / 0) (#8)
by rusty on Thu Apr 06, 2000 at 07:03:45 PM EST

I reloaded a few times, and it never incremented at all.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Some Links (none / 0) (#9)
by rongen on Thu Apr 06, 2000 at 07:48:05 PM EST

I reloaded a few times, and it never incremented at all.

You need to leave and then come back for it to change I think... I'll speak to the web-counter certification board (WCCB) and see if we can't get them to standardize that counter. It seems to be violating at least three regulations (the most significant one being the lack of shiny "analog roller" graphics---just digits).

Um, I'm kidding about the WCCB! :) <- this last sentence is also a joke... Still, kidding... Uh oh, I forgot to terminate the recursion! HELP!!!
read/write http://www.prosebush.com
[ Parent ]

Other alternatives (none / 0) (#6)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Apr 06, 2000 at 03:54:57 PM EST

The napster/gnutella thing is pretty interesting.

I'm working on the design for a load-balancing, "RAID" ftp-bouncer, probably in
perl. Anyone interested?

Agreed, the 'target' of that app is different, but it's simpler to work on,
1: Clients are widely available now.
2: The protocol is very simple, and has ctrl/data channel separation.
3: It can be developed in place. (after some basic functions are done.)
4: Similar, if less ambitious, subvertions of the protocol are available.

Re: Gnutella Theory (none / 0) (#11)
by Anonymous Hero on Sat Apr 08, 2000 at 06:26:35 PM EST

Of course, if you're a student in a university, you can call it censorship and try to hack around the firewall all you want... But elsewhere, businesses supply bandwidth to employees in order to make a product (or create value-- whatever you want to call it) and the cost of that bandwidth is overhead. So, being driven by the bottom line, your average business feels pretty well justified in preventing massive downloads of mp3's or shareware or pornography or just about anything that doesn't increase profitability. It ain't about free speech baby, it's about paying bills. ( not gonna bring up the copyright issue, no,no,no,no ) Your salary is one o' those bills-- so spend $50 a month for a DSL connection and pursue your hobby on your own time. --- anonymity isn't heroic, it's just laziness.

Re: Gnutella Theory (none / 0) (#12)
by Field Marshall Stack on Sun Apr 09, 2000 at 08:40:47 PM EST

It's neither here nor there as far as this thread is concerned, but it's always been my opinion that smart companies would view anything which makes its employees happy as increasing profitability. Right now, bandwidth is cheaper than happy hackers, so....

Of course, I'm (and I'm the first to admit it) incredibly naive.
Ben Allen, hiway@speakeasy.org
"Nobody ever lends money to a man with a sense of humor"
-Peter Tork
[ Parent ]

Gnutella Theory | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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