PeerGuardian

By Jon Newton 5/20/03

While p2pnet.net was down, a lot of our emails (which I lost, damn-it !) asked about PeerGuardian - where it's at, whether or not it's really 'safe' and so on.

Wot PG? - ask those of you who've been living in a cave. Well, in effect, it's a configurable firewall designed to block the ravages (or attempted ravages ; ) of the RIAA and MPAA, et al. But before we get down to it, how about this for a chuckle?

WhenU.com, purveyors of Spyware (oops - sorry - adware) and the "leaders in contextual marketing" (nice one : ) wanted to bundle their wares with PeerGuardian.



The new 15GB and 30GB Apple iPod can be ordered from Amazon.

Right. Heh.

Anyhow, p2pnet.net spoke to PG's creator who, among other things, told us he and PeerBuddy's author may soon engage in a little creative collaboration.

"The PeerBuddy method of blocking is technically superior to PeerGuardian's (it properly blocks the connections as opposed to monitoring the TCP table and closing connections but won't work on win9x/winnt4.0 or older)," said PG. "Others are also interested in collaboration to monitor, trap IPs and block p2p enemies."

In the meanwhile, "PeerGuardian was only really intended for friends and people who knew me: it was just a project based on my reaction to the RIAAs persistant attacks on peer-2-peer," he said.

"When the RIAA screwed AudioGalaxy up, probably the most cooperative p2p network there ever was, I decided I had to at least try to do something in return and, well.. you know the rest.

"At present PeerGuardian seems secure enough for broadband users (judging on feedback lately), the old version (v1.2) wasn't really secure though, it would occasionally let a connection through with enough time to send some data. (for instance, webpages would partially load but images and other page content wouldn't!) - With PeerGuardian v1.96 this problem disappeared.

"Older releases of PeerGuardian also used to get overflow errors, crashing the client and disabling the blocking, this also appears to have been eradicated with the latest release.

"Recent fixes were spurred on by unexpected coverage on SecurityFocus, TheRegister & Wired.com. I'd left 'PG' buggy up to this point, after getting more attention I had to try and get some of the problems resolved. I haven't finished with the project though, there's still more work to do on it.

"The on-line database side is also under further development with the immediate aim of trying to make these more user-friendly and make adding block ranges from the site to the application quicker. Further protection is currently being added to stop the database being sabotaged and to stop excessively large ranges from being entered. A few people have posted bogus ranges but when these are detected they're added to the 'removal-list'.

"Once PeerGuardian hits the full v2.0 release, I'll be concentrating on adding the ability for anonymous transfers in my other p2p projects 'XS' and 'X-Net' (working title). Ultimately, anonymous transfers will make PeerGuardian redundant. It'll be a shame to see it go when that day comes but it will be a good day for the p2p scene when anonymity is morecommonplace.

"Of course some states in the US have declared that technology that conceals the source and destination of internet communications should be illegal. (see http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/archives/000336.html)

"This is probably a pre-emptive move against anonymous p2p. Of course, if it's anonymous and encrypted they won't know what information is being sent from one person to another, if it's controllable by the user (the anonymity aspect) it also puts the enabling and use of that technology in the hands of the users, making them responsible for the use of that technology. It's ridiculous, as even a college router cloaks a users specific IP to some degree.

"So far I've had no hassle form MediaFarce, LameTSP and the other anti-p2p companies.

"However, I have had an email from WhenU.com wanting to bundle their wares with PeerGuardian. Of course I said No and asked if they were aware of what PeerGuardian blocks (WhenU.com is included!!). I don't think they were too happy when I referred to their products as 'spyware'. So 'adware' it is. ;)

"As far as plans for the future are concerned, there'll be more development on PeerGuardian, XS (fairly similar to Direct Connect) although that needs a bunch of MS controls replacing to make it more stable. After that I'll work on the project under the working title of 'X-Net', this will be a true decentralized network with anonymous-transfer capability.

"To be honest, I didn't think PeerGuardian would be so popular. As you'd expect, where there's attention, there's criticism. I've had my fair share of complaints. The most valid were the overflow errors and the responsiveness issue of old releases. Answering 50 emails a day hasn't been easy either, questions like "who controls the blocklist" become tedius when the blocklist is an open database for users to submit to! There's also been conspiracy theories which I guess I've been more amused by than anything ("How do we know this isn't a trojan from the RIAA?"). Generally though, I've had positive feedback 95% of the time.

"PeerGuardian isn't perfect and it's far from full protection. But I'm still trying to improve it and working on ideas to defend p2p along with other people."

PeerGuardian v1.96b was released on May 3. Get it here.

Comments or thoughts? Email us here.

 

Jon Newton is the editor of p2pnet.net and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.

 


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