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article imageEdward Snowden inspired anonymity software, OnionShare, launches

By Greta McClain     Jun 29, 2014 in Internet
A recently released open-source software, created in response to the controversy surrounding Edward Snowden's release of classified NSA documents, claims to allow users to securely send large files over the internet with complete anonymity.
The software, which is called OnionShare, was created by Micah Lee, a technology analyst who specializes in operational security, privacy, and cryptography. After journalist David Miranda was detained and questioned for nine hours at Heathrow airport last year, Lee was determined to create a way for people to share large amounts of data through a direct channel encrypted and protected by the anonymity software Tor. The result of that determination was OnionShare.
What makes OnionShare different from programs such is Dropbox is that it utilizes a one to one exchange, eliminating the "middleman" in the file sharing process. Lee told Wired:
“If you use a filesharing service like Dropbox or Mega or whatever, you basically have to trust them. The file could end up in the hands of law enforcement. This lets you bypass all third parties, so that the file goes from one person to another over the Tor network completely anonymously. It’s basically 100 percent darknet."
Although the ramifications of this new software application could be significant, OnionShare launched with little fanfare, just a simple tweet by Lee in which he says:
"At some point today I'll have my first piece of software in @debian. torbrowser-launcher."
How OnionShare Works
Screen shot of Onionshare peer-to-peer file sharing software
Screen shot of Onionshare peer-to-peer file sharing software
Before someone can share a file using OnionShare , they will need to download and open the Tor Browser in the background. According to the website, "Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. Individuals use Tor to keep websites from tracking them and their family members."
Once OnionShare is opened and an individual begins the process of sending files, it essentially creates a temporary website on that individuals computer. The application creates a temporary, password-protected website and sends the sender and recipient the URL and password for that website. This creates a direct link between the sending and receiving computer. Once the files are downloaded by the recipient, the users cancel the site, which erases all traces of the transfer.
Significance of OnionShare
Electronic Frontier Foundation activist, Parker Higgins, considers Lee's software important, saying:
"Peer-to-peer offers no convenient mechanism for centralized surveillance or censorship. By design, there's usually no middleman that can easily record metadata about transfers—who uploaded and downloaded what, when, and from where—or block those transfers. With some peer-to-peer implementations (though not Lee's) that information may be publicly accessible. But recording all of it would require a dragnet effort, not a simple request for a log file from a centralized service provider."
Although Lee developed OnionShare in response to the difficulty journalists David Miranda and Glenn Greenwald, founder of The Intercept, encountered when trying to transfer files between themselves and Snowden, he hopes the software application will become widely used, telling Gizmodo:
"I do want it to be a widespread tool. I think that right now it's kind of a hard problem to send someone a large file across the Internet without it getting spied on. This is a very simple way around that. I would like a lot of people to use it, and for it to become a new standard way for people to send big files. It will make the Internet more secure."
More about File sharing, file share, Uploads, App, Application
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