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posted by janrinok on Monday January 26 2015, @05:53PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the hacking-as-hacking-was-intended-to-be dept.

Michael Weissenstein reports for the Associated Press:

Cut off from the Internet, young Cubans have quietly linked thousands of computers into a hidden network that stretches miles across Havana, letting them chat with friends, play games and download hit movies in a mini-replica of the online world that most can't access.

Home Internet connections are banned for all but a handful of Cubans, and the government charges nearly a quarter of a month's salary for an hour online in government-run hotels and Internet centers. As a result, most people on the island live offline, complaining about their lack of access to information and contact with friends and family abroad.

A small minority have covertly engineered a partial solution by pooling funds to create a private network of more than 9,000 computers with small, inexpensive but powerful hidden Wi-Fi antennas and Ethernet cables strung over streets and rooftops spanning the entire city. Disconnected from the real Internet, the network is limited, local and built with equipment commercially available around the world, with no help from any outside government, organizers say.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26 2015, @06:10PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26 2015, @06:10PM (#138258)

    i'm sure all the ships with soldiers surrounding the island and not letting any cables-laying-ships land makes the internet really easy to get on said island : )
    maybe we should ask a cuban if wifi is really illegal?
    oh wait ...

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by jmorris on Monday January 26 2015, @07:20PM

      by jmorris (4844) on Monday January 26 2015, @07:20PM (#138281)

      Eh? They have fiber links. The US is the only country boycotting them and the US Navy doesn't maintain a blockade or anything; other countries have been trading with them and laying cables to them. They just restrict access severely.

      If we were smart we would be dropping info dumps into their internal network. Make sure an updated Wikipedia was always easily available, etc. Reestablish the old packet based ways like FIDO to open gates into outside web based forums where they would access via a BBS based QWK packet based interface. No way they could keep intermittent sat based links from operating if outside governments would fund the links on the sly.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by isostatic on Monday January 26 2015, @09:06PM

        by isostatic (365) on Monday January 26 2015, @09:06PM (#138318) Journal

        Who is "we", and why do you think the cuban population want's "we" to cause such issues and get thousands of people arrested?

        Cuba prohibits the use of Wi-Fi equipment without a license from the Ministry of Communications, making SNet technically illegal. Broche Moreno said he believes the law gives authorities latitude to allow networks like SNet to operate. He described a sort of tacit understanding with officials that lets SNet run unmolested as long as it respects Cuban law — its hundreds of nodes are informally monitored by volunteer administrators who make sure users don't share pornography, discuss politics or link SNet to illicit connections to the real Internet.

        I'd hope the U.S. has learnt from Afghanistan and Iraq by now, or if you want to go a bit further back how about the bay of pigs?

        • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday January 27 2015, @06:43PM

          by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @06:43PM (#138602) Journal

          Who is "we", and why do you think the cuban population want's "we" to cause such issues and get thousands of people arrested?
           
          Why are they undertaking such effort to create a network if they don't want a network?

      • (Score: 1) by gnuman on Monday January 26 2015, @09:12PM

        by gnuman (5013) on Monday January 26 2015, @09:12PM (#138321)

        http://www.wsj.com/articles/cuba-opening-shines-light-on-obsolete-telecom-links-1418862828 [wsj.com]

        Dec. 17, 2014 7:33 p.m. ET
        ....
        The island nation has just one modern, fixed Internet connection to the outside world, with spotty access to satellite links providing the rest. Cuba has access to about 1% of the Internet bandwidth available in the nearby Dominican Republic, according to researcher TeleGeography.
        ...
        The Cubans decided to build a cable with Venezuela instead.
        ...
        The cable finally lit up in January of 2013. Its fibers are controlled by Telecomunicaciones Gran Caribe SA, a joint venture between incumbent Cuban and Venezuelan telecom companies.

        The U.S. Department of Defense is funding a separate high-speed fiber-optic cable to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

        So I guess it depends on what you mean by "they have fiber links". 1% total bandwidth is not that much. Like comparing 5Mbit/s connection with 56kbit/s modem. Sorry, can't even load twitter on that. Seems like the gitmo illegal indefinite holding will end up with more bandwidth than the rest of Cuba.

      • (Score: 2) by arashi no garou on Monday January 26 2015, @10:58PM

        by arashi no garou (2796) on Monday January 26 2015, @10:58PM (#138347)

        Why not packet radio? Hams from non-US locations could easily set up HF packet nodes for the homegrown network to connect to, giving them a tunnel to the outside Internet. About the only thing standing in the way (other than the Cuban government finding out) is the amateur radio laws of the other country, and some countries care less about what hams do with their equipment and the bands than others.

  • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Monday January 26 2015, @07:03PM

    by ikanreed (3164) on Monday January 26 2015, @07:03PM (#138272) Journal

    Network administration must be a gigantic pain.

    Forget connection layer problems, imagine trying to manage the routing tables and DNS for such an enormous ad hoc network.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by VLM on Monday January 26 2015, @07:43PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 26 2015, @07:43PM (#138291)

      multicast dns and random numbers in a flat network (like 10.0.0.0/8 or heck just 0.0.0.0/0)... easier than you'd think. Given truly random numbers in a /8 the odds of a collision are really quite low although theres always at least two idiots that insists on being #1 aka 10.1.1.1

      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Tuesday January 27 2015, @01:58AM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 27 2015, @01:58AM (#138391) Journal

        Why wouldn't the put up a DHCP server ? you can hardly find a wifi router without one built in, and any ancient 486 box can be a router.

        There was a fairly extensive disconnected network in one of the neighborhoods in Bethel Alaska in the early years when the Doom and Quake games came out. It was pretty much all coax back strung through back yards then. When the internet arrived the gamesters didn't even want to connect their "ratnet".

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 2) by VLM on Tuesday January 27 2015, @12:23PM

          by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 27 2015, @12:23PM (#138512)

          Then you end up with two goofs both insisting on running dhcp servers...

          • (Score: 2) by frojack on Tuesday January 27 2015, @09:27PM

            by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 27 2015, @09:27PM (#138639) Journal

            Which works fine, for any properly configured dhcp server.

            But chances are the goof that adds a new server is clueless enough to not coordinate the net block size, and therefore serves requests with the wrong subnet mask.

            --
            No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26 2015, @07:51PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26 2015, @07:51PM (#138292)

      And through that fire they became strong, and network admin'd the world anew.

    • (Score: 2) by isostatic on Monday January 26 2015, @09:13PM

      by isostatic (365) on Monday January 26 2015, @09:13PM (#138322) Journal

      It's pretty nifty, but I suspect that the routers run something like OSPF between them, perhaps segregated into geographical nodes, with BGP on top of each one. These aren't rocket science, just standard protocols for your average home router. My 3 routers at home have a wifi backplanes, 3 cabled subnets, and a wifi general access subnet, with a pppoe over vdsl for the upstream connection, and a backup 3G dongle that kicks in if the upstream dies. OSPF manages the routing, total of about $220 of equipment including the 3G dongle and chipping.

      Something probably simpler would be say 15 homes hanging of one central location, with static routes to each home from there, knocking the number of routable notes to 600. Then say 10 ASes with 60 OSPF nodes in each one, with each node connected to 2 or 3 others. Far larger than anything I've built, but I don't think there would be an issue.

      Will OSPF scale to 9000 routers?

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by aXis on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:20AM

        by aXis (2908) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:20AM (#138407)

        Many many years ago I helped build and maintain a Wireless Freenet in Perth, Australia. The only way to make them work is to have a single nominated person maintaining a database and allocating addresses, otherwise it's mayhem.

        Each base station operator was given a /24 subnet and would typically subnet it further to allow for local wireless clients (eg a /26), internal LAN clients (also a /26) and upstream point - point links (/30). They could implement any firewalling or internal routing they - liked.

        Between base stations we then managed the routes via BGP and each operator was given an AS number. It was tricky to balance link costs and occasionaly an admin would advertise a bad route, but in general it was good solution. We tried our best to keep the routes aggregated where possible.

        For DNS, each base station operator was allowed to choose a domain name. The TLD was managed at a cental master station, and local DNS servers at the base staitons would manage their own domain and do zone transfers to the master along with caching for clients.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Gravis on Monday January 26 2015, @07:15PM

    by Gravis (4596) on Monday January 26 2015, @07:15PM (#138279)

    Hackers gonna Hack.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by bob_super on Monday January 26 2015, @07:16PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Monday January 26 2015, @07:16PM (#138280)

    A few very short years before Wi-Fi became ubiquitous, my school built some student apartments which weren't networked in any way.
    We had a lot of fun pulling coax through the whole building using any existing hole, gap, ventilation, phone/doorbell conduit that had enough space. It took a few home-made repeaters and we definitely exceeded the standard span length for proper CD, but it worked as long as we needed it. We probably ended up knowing the building better than the maintenance guys.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @01:33AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @01:33AM (#138384)

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/01/26/secret_cuban_network_breaks_government_ban/ [theregister.co.uk]

    "It appears that the authorities are turning a blind eye to SNet, which in turn is policed by volunteers to ensure that it's not used for (other) illegal activities or porn. Lack of connections to the wider internet helps ensure the government doesn't act to shut down SNet."

  • (Score: 1) by Ayn Anonymous on Tuesday January 27 2015, @06:43AM

    by Ayn Anonymous (5012) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @06:43AM (#138453)

    If I would life in Cuiba, I would ask a friend in Florida or general the south east US cost to buy two-way sat hardware and subscribe to a SAT ISP.

    Send the hardware in small parts to Cuba. Mount it hidden on a roof, connect a 5 GHz WiFi router (harder to locate). Change your Wifi MAC every time you connect to your sat-wifi router to a random one (macchanger).

    Reasonable fast, affordable, unfiltered Internet.

    The sat provider can't detect a couple of hundred kilometers difference to the stated upload address.

    The Cuban authority's have a very hard time to make a connection to me if the sat up-link ever get detected.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:54AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:54AM (#138478)

    There are a lot of "LANs" in Russia, some of them interconnected.

    They usually span micro-districts, apartment blocks or even local ISPs and mostly used for gaming and file-transfer (usually, DC++).

    There's fewer now with ubiquitous cable or DSL connections, but some of the cable operators/resellers still maintain such networks, with unmetered traffic (and sometimes speed) inside of them.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:37AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:37AM (#138506)

      The ruskies rule DC now after the crackdowns everywhere else. Putin, I love you, dont ever change.