I wanted to share something I take for granted, as a gamer, but most preppers are unaware of. There are many ways for you to have a conversation with someone that is somewhat secure, and with some computer know-how, they can be configured for secure communications over the Internet.
Part of gaming today is a ubiquitous access to cheap VOIP (Voice over IP) services. Online groups of people, called Guilds (MMO’s) or Clans (FPS/RTS), have a service paid for by a member, or by pooling money that allows the members (& Guests) to talk with each other to coordinate their actions. A friend of mine has kept one of these servers to act as a running conference call with friends that have moved on to other games, “real-life” friends and family.
Xbox Live has a voice chat feature, and I’m not sure if the PS3 has one, but if not it will soon. The saturation of the home with this VOIP technology has led to a few opportunities and concerns for us.
1) More ways for .gov to monitor us. Decrypting unsecured VOIP is child’s play. I wonder if .gov could turn the microphone on your Xbox or PC on remotely, and listen to you. There was a ruckus about a school turning the camera on loaned out laptops last year…
2) More ways for people to communicate, for free.
3) With a bit of tweaking, secure communications that will take .gov a while to crack.
For options, let me run down the list. There is the aforementioned Xbox live. Then there is the “PC Gamer” VOIPs – Ventrillo, Teamspeak, Mumble. There is also Skype. And there is another series of open source applications out there. Asterix is an open source voicemail (&more) system.
A quick search for “ventrillo server” or “teamspeak server” will give you hundreds of companies running the server software. I have used typefrag.com in the past for a guild, and their current prices are $2 for a 5person, and $4 for a 10 person server. A visa gift card with some $ on it and you have an anonymous server available for easy communication.
Obfuscation will only get you so far, though. The communications between your pc and the server can be intercepted. The company could be recording your conversations either on their own, or under a subpena. So how do we get around that?
Each of the “PC Gamer” VOIP services is built from an open source project, and the server software is easily downloaded and installed on a computer. So, if you have an extra PC lying around, then install the software and configure your firewall to forward the port you are using for communications to the internal IP of your Ventrillo/Teamspeak/Murmur server.
You now have 100% control of your data, but the communications can still be intercepted. The next step is to configure a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. A VPN is a secure, encrypted connection between two computers. On your VOIP server you configure the VPN, then close the holes opened for your VOIP program — you don’t want any unencrypted communications. Forward the VPN connections on the firewall, then when the users VPN in, they are part of your private network, and connect their VOIP client to your servers internal address.
Firewalls commonly have VPN capabilities, but those are the “prosumer” or professional models. Most of the Netgear or Dlink models you have at the home do not have this functionality.
With this configuration, you have a secure digital communication system that cannot be easily listened to. It’s a bit of a paint to set up, and anyone snooping around will want to know what is going on. If you have a blog for instance that can be quite critical about our federal government, then when you start something like this up, then they might do something about it. Otherwise, I would already have this running. Also, your home IP address ties you to a physical location, so I wouldn’t just give this out to any dude off the street.
Here is a diagram to help make sense of it all.