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Online file-sharing crackdowns spawn bizarre offline system

Posted at 02 November 2010 13:00 CEST by wconeybeer

An interesting new offline anonymous form of file-sharing is literally taking to the streets as online services are increasingly targeted by anti-piracy groups and legislation.

Dead Drops is the name that Aram Bartholl has given his radical file-sharing endeavor, a project that is part of his residency at the Eyebeam Art + Technology Center.

Bartholl has embedded USB drives in a number of public locations around New York City in the exterior walls of public buildings, light poles, and curbs. Now he is encouraging the public to plug into the drives and share their files with one another.

“Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your files and date. Each dead drop contains a readme.txt file explaining the project,” Bartholl has posted on his blog. “‘Dead Drops’ is still in progress, to be continued here and in more cities. Full documentation, movie, map and ‘How to make your own dead drop’ manual coming soon!”

The Dead Drops project takes its name from dead letter boxes, secret locations where people, sometimes international spies, can drop and retrieve information discretely without ever having to meet.

While the idea is certainly intriguing, there are several factors that make Dead Drops impractical to a point that I don’t think it will catch on except for people who want to experience the novelty. For one thing I’m sure cities aren’t going to take too kindly to someone boring holes into structures and leaving behind permanently embedded flash drives. Then there’s the fact that it is neither discreet nor inconspicuous standing around with your laptop plugged into the side of a building. In fact, the appearance just reeks of sleazy, illegal activity. Not to mention what people might end up finding on these drives, like porn or a nasty virus perhaps.

So you won’t catch me seeking out Dead Drops in my city anytime soon. Would you try it?

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There are 21 comments

bean55
MyCE Resident
Posted on: 02 Nov 10 13:52
    Quote:
    Firefox has detected that the server is redirecting the request for this address in a way that will never complete.
    Bad Link?
    bean55
    MyCE Resident
    Posted on: 02 Nov 10 14:09
      Thanks midders

      Interesting enough to read, but I can't see to many intelligent people doing it.
      midders
      Batchshrink Author
      Posted on: 02 Nov 10 14:43
        I could see it catching on if it were done by bluetooth/wireless, but to physically plug into a USB stick? I don't think so.
        Seán
        Senior Administrator & Reviewer
        Posted on: 02 Nov 10 14:53
          Thanks midders. Seems like a database problem at the moment as I can't get into any mainpage story here at this time of writing.

          I also think a Wi-Fi version would work better and also encourage it, since people do regularly look for open Wi-Fi points and sure I'm sure someone would rather join a public Wi-Fi access point than physically attach their laptop into some USB port sticking out a wall somewhere.

          All that would be required is a Wi-Fi access point with NAS functionality, a solar panel for power and a USB pen drive plugged into its USB port to share out as a network drive.
          DrageMester
          Retired Moderator
          Posted on: 02 Nov 10 15:31
            Quote:
            Originally Posted by bean55
            Bad Link?
            The problem is more general as I reported in this thread:

            Links to news and reviews partly broken
            mrpetecdfreaks
            MyCE Rookie
            Posted on: 02 Nov 10 18:12
              Plugging an unknown USB device into your computer is a great way to get a virus/malware/spyware. Midders is correct that this type of thing could be done in a safer way without a USB connection. Beware - The windows "trick" of holding down the shift key to stop autorun of executables doesn't always work.

              http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/em/ccirc/2008/tr08-004-eng.aspx

              Also, remember that no file is ever truly deleted from a flash memory drive until its blocks are overwritten. That could require filling up the entire drive to be 100% sure that the info is wiped. So think twice before you put some info on a public flash drive.
              ivid
              MyCE Resident
              Posted on: 02 Nov 10 18:35
                Thats just retarded
                Mr. Belvedere
                MyCE Resident
                Posted on: 02 Nov 10 20:23
                  Not gonna try that at all. You can never be sure what kind of data is on that thing. However, it would be a nice experiment to see what people actually are storing on that thing.

                  On top of that, it's easily destroyed. Just take something heavy and knock the port right out of the wall.

                  Perhaps it could even destroy your usb port if some moron actually short circuited or otherwise tamper with the connector.
                  Blu-rayFreak
                  MyCE Resident
                  Posted on: 02 Nov 10 20:45
                    The USB connector extruding from the wall should have a sign next to it that says "Stick it in".

                    Creative experiment, but this is obviously not going to catch on to be widespread. I wouldn't mind placing some USB drives around my town to see what gets placed on them though. Seems like a fun experiment.
                    RTV71
                    MyCE Member
                    Posted on: 02 Nov 10 22:49
                      While viruses are mostly a Windows problem, I've seen working examples of USB-based system cracking tools that will work on any system. They consist of a Arduino module that emulates FLASH drive and a USB keyboard. Most OSes will automatically enable a USB keyboard so you're pw3d within a few seconds while you're browsing the files.
                      getit29
                      MyCE Resident
                      Posted on: 03 Nov 10 01:59
                        I would think the United States Government will put a stop to this ideal in a hurry as it will
                        claim it poses a security risk as it would be so easy for terrorist to transfer instructions and
                        other stuff to each other.

                        Is this Aram Bartholl guy goofy or what doesn't he know the ramifications this ideal poses to
                        any evil doers out there and what they could transfer to each other? I for one would never plug
                        into one of those things even if I were a file sharer.

                        I just hope that the Government will put a stop to this ideal in a hurry before it gets to far out
                        of hand or at least monitor it for terrorist activity.
                        debro
                        Blown to smitherines
                        Posted on: 03 Nov 10 02:20
                          Quote:
                          Originally Posted by bean55
                          Thanks midders

                          Interesting enough to read, but I can't see to many intelligent people doing it.
                          So .. you're predicting that it will be extremely popular ... just like facebook & myspace.

                          For the record,

                          But there's no claiming that someone else was using your unsecured wifi, when the police drop around and find your pirate porn collection after they've observed you at the dead drop USB point
                          Pothee
                          New Member
                          Posted on: 03 Nov 10 05:35
                            this is the most unthought and dangerously absurd attempt at providing an alternative for file sharing! I wouldnt use it.
                            bean55
                            MyCE Resident
                            Posted on: 03 Nov 10 13:07
                              Quote:
                              Originally Posted by debro
                              So .. you're predicting that it will be extremely popular ... just like facebook & myspace.

                              For the record,

                              Good one debro

                              I don't think even they would fall for this one
                              Carfanatic
                              MyCE Rookie
                              Posted on: 04 Nov 10 05:03
                                It's the glory hole of the digital age.....

                                Too bad they didn't have a way to infect the users with a virus as well their computers would be a good means of population control get rid of the dumbest of our society.
                                Somebody74
                                New Member
                                Posted on: 05 Nov 10 14:39
                                  What is this?
                                  trust2112
                                  MyCE Member
                                  Posted on: 05 Nov 10 15:30
                                    It is a wonderful idea, the unfortunate thing about it is that you do not know what is on the drive. I could have downloaded the movie or music on my computer, then upload something malicious back on it for the next person. Maybe a mail service with passing usb sticks from person to person. They'll know what it is, but cannot do anything about it because the government cannot tamper with mail. Use their own laws to undo themselves. Maybe "usb parties" congregate at some location if you are a member of a certain group? There are other ways, but I applaud this person for creativity.
                                    debro
                                    Blown to smitherines
                                    Posted on: 06 Nov 10 05:23
                                      Quote:
                                      Originally Posted by trust2112
                                      It is a wonderful idea, the unfortunate thing about it is that you do not know what is on the drive. I could have downloaded the movie or music on my computer, then upload something malicious back on it for the next person. Maybe a mail service with passing usb sticks from person to person. They'll know what it is, but cannot do anything about it because the government cannot tamper with mail. Use their own laws to undo themselves. Maybe "usb parties" congregate at some location if you are a member of a certain group? There are other ways, but I applaud this person for creativity.
                                      Damn straight!

                                      On holiday, I plugged my handycam into a hotel PC ... and when I got home ... ewww ...
                                      AVG & MS SE were fighting with eachother to kill the infections ... loaded up with 3 different virus' ... there was about 15 different executable files dumped on it, and a whole bunch of extra crap, and they all looked like folders.

                                      If I had file extension hidden, I'd have been screwed to find the right one ...
                                      Pothee
                                      New Member
                                      Posted on: 06 Nov 10 08:27
                                        I stick by what i said,its the dumbest thing yet,but if one dosent mind the high risk of connecting to the unknown,go right ahead!

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