Brooklyn 'CryptoParty' delves into deep web, online privacy - Technical.ly Brooklyn

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Sep. 10, 2014 10:05 am

Brooklyn ‘CryptoParty’ delves into deep web, online privacy

Local devs gathered at the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library to teach community members how to navigate the web anonymously, and other privacy tips.

Matthew Mitchell explains how to stay secure online, at the Brooklyn Public Library's "CryptoParty," Sept. 8, 2014.

(Photo by Tyler Woods)

A week-and-a-half ago the deep web popped up in mainstream culture when roughly the whole internet Googled “celeb nudes leaked.”

Tuesday night the Brooklyn Public Library held a CryptoParty, at which volunteers taught community members how to best maintain online privacy.

Matthew Mitchell, by day a web developer for the New York Times, explained Tor, the web browsing software that allows you to navigate the web anonymously.

“When you’re on Tor … you don’t go straight into the Internet, like Yahoo.com,” he said. “You go to another Tor user which bounces to another Tor user and another and another and they go to Yahoo.com.”

The process can happen hundreds or thousands of times and a user’s request can bounce from New York to Berlin to Buenos Aires to Phoenix and anywhere else, making tracking the original IP address impossible. But all that bouncing can make Tor slower than a normal browser, like, say, Firefox.

“If you care about your convenience, throw away security,” Mitchell said. “Tor is slow. Everything private is slow.”

"Anonymity and privacy create avenues of expression that would not otherwise be practical."
David Huerta, CryptoParty NYC co-organizer

Using Tor was just one of many recommendations, which included use of more complicated passwords and two-step authentication, where sites use text messages to send one-time passwords.

The event was organized by David Huerta, the shaggy-haird lead developer for the Brooklyn Museum. Huerta has both a Tor sticker and a Department of Homeland Security sticker on his laptop.

“We want to bring more people into confidently being able to use technology without being used by it,” he explained.

One need only Google the name of a brand and have it pop up in their Facebook ads for the next month to know how deeply our online activity is tracked. But Huerta says there are other benefits to not being tracked online.

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“Anonymity and privacy create avenues of expression that would not otherwise be practical,” he said, offering the examples of a businessman who might want to publish his art or a worker who might want to be a whistleblower.

One of the attendees of the workshop, Eddie Petit, said he came to the event because he felt that far more people than he knew have probably looked at his private messages and passwords.

“The big thing I got from this was there’s no such thing as security or privacy because someone will always have greater knowledge than someone else in how to protect computers and information. It’s all relative,” he said. “I just want to be relatively more secure than the next person.”

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