eternity server makes wired

Ariel Glenn ariel at
Tue Aug 5 14:33:35 PDT 1997

Good going, guys...

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   [Back] Creating Anonymous Sites That Can't Be Revoked
   by Michael Stutz 
   12:05pm  5.Aug.97.PDT Web sites, having a physical, traceable
   location, are always subject to censorship. In such attacks, a
   government or other localized entity orders the removal of - or even
   physically raids - those sites which host non-approved content within
   its sovereign borders; these sites are often forced to "unpublish" or
   destroy such information.
   Now, a means of creating anonymous, unrevokable Web sites has been
   developed. Originally proposed in theory by UK cryptologist Ross
   Anderson, the Eternity Server is being implemented by a band of
   cypherpunks including Adam Back, a research fellow at Exeter
   The idea is simple. Web content - even entire sites - can be posted to
   Usenet in such a way that it can be easily retrieved.
   Usenet's discussion forums are distributed across thousands of news
   servers around the world. This, it turns out, makes for a perfect,
   anonymous digital repository: "No one knows who's reading it," said
   Back. "They can't find all Eternity Servers from some centralized
   list. It's decentralized, unlike a mailing list, where there is a
   central node which can be taken out."
   The mechanics of document submission are as follows: Eternity Service
   recognizes its own fictitious top-level domain, .eternity. From there,
   a Web document is given its own virtual URL, and the subject line of
   the message becomes a unique mathematical representation of that
   virtual URL, from which the document can be retrieved using search
   techniques. Furthermore, the message is encrypted so that knowledge of
   this URL is necessary for decryption.
   Once posted to Usenet, the document will be viewable in perpetuity and
   can be reconstructed in a Web browser by any Eternity Server program,
   which simply decodes the .eternity URL into its equivalent Usenet
   message, then fetches, decrypts, and displays it. Eternity supports
   digital signatures to maintain author anonymity, allowing for
   unconditional free speech.
   Mike Duvos, a Seattle-area computer-software consultant, is an
   Eternity Service user. He sees this as part of Usenet's ongoing
   evolution, just as it previously changed from a text-only medium to
   include binary files as well.
   "Establishing a convention for the posting of Web content to Usenet,
   employing modern encryption and authentication tools, and permitting
   transparent browsing of that content, is just another step in the same
   direction," he said.
   While still fresh out of beta, the technique shows a great deal of
   promise as a foil to conventional means of censorship. "The attention
   gathered by censoring an Eternity Server will ensure that lots of
   other servers start up," said Back. "It will generate a feeding frenzy
   of new servers springing up," he said, assisting free speech from here
   - to Eternity.
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Ariel Glenn / AcIS R&D / Columbia University
ariel at
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