DCSIMG

Scots firm creates way to hide internet footprint

Maidsafe founder David Irvine and chief operating officer Nick Lambert. Picture: Contributed

Maidsafe founder David Irvine and chief operating officer Nick Lambert. Picture: Contributed

  • by MARTYN MCLAUGHLIN
 

IN THE age of Big Brother and the prying eyes of the National Security Agency and its allies, it is billed as a way of reclaiming the internet for ordinary people.

A Scottish firm has hit upon a way to allow people to access the internet free from monitoring and surveillance by major corporations and government agencies. The company, Maidsafe, has developed what is describes as a “decentralised and anonymous” online platform that taps into the unused computing power of laptop and desktop computers around the world. The system is designed to curb the growing unease over how people’s online footprints can be traced, as well as greatly minimising the threat faced by individuals and businesses from cybercrime.

Known as Secure Access for Everyone (Safe), the initiative has attracted several million pounds in private investment and counts the former chief operating officer of Skype among its advisers.

The Safe platform has already attracted a groundswell of support from computing experts and academics who believe it will bolster privacy and security measures online.

Based in Troon, Maidsafe has been working on the initiative for the past eight years. Nick Lambert, Maidsafe’s chief operating officer, said he believed Safe would offer respite for those concerned about online liberties.

“The platform is about security, freedom and having control over your own data,” he said. “The power and influence some firms have over the internet has happened quite gradually, and that’s part of the problem.”

Unlike the existing infrastructure of the internet, which relies on vast centralised servers to hold and transmit data, Maidsafe has struck upon a way of using home computers. In exchange for offering up some unused hard drive space on their own devices, users of the platform will be able to browse the web safe in the knowledge that their identity is protected. As things stand, the data we transmit while using the internet is stored in vast data facilities that are prone to security breaches. Safe, however, uses technology similar to that seen in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin to break up data into slices, known as “data shards,” storing them on machines with an advanced encryption system.

Whereas the existing internet sees popular sites routinely crash under huge demand because of everyone trying to access the one central point, the more users there are on a website using Safe, the faster the site loads.

Dr Natalia Chechina, a research associate at the University of Glasgow’s school of computing science, said: “This network is a huge step forward in handling private data that will definitely change our attitude to privacy in the internet.”

However, Désiré Athow, editor of TechRadar Pro, a technology website offering IT insight for businesses, warned that Safe would not make computers immune from hackers, adding that similar initiatives have failed to capture the public imagination.

 

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