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Communications Cellphones Encryption Network Privacy Security Wireless Networking Technology

Volunteers Around the World Build Surveillance-Free Cellular Network Called 'Sopranica' (vice.com) 77

dmoberhaus writes: Motherboard's Daniel Oberhaus spoke to Denver Gingerich, the programmer behind Sopranica, a DIY, community-oriented cell phone network. "Sopranica is a project intended to replace all aspects of the existing cell phone network with their freedom-respecting equivalents," says Gingerich. "Taking out all the basement firmware on the cellphone, the towers that track your location, the payment methods that track who you are and who owns the number, and replacing it so we can have the same functionality without having to give up all the privacy that we have to give up right now. At a high level, it's about running community networks instead of having companies control the cell towers that we connect to." Motherboard interviews Gingerich and shows you how to use the network to avoid cell surveillance. According to Motherboard, all you need to do to join Sopranica is "create a free and anonymous Jabber ID, which is like an email address." Jabber is slang for a secure instant messaging protocol called XMPP that let's you communicate over voice and text from an anonymous phone number. "Next, you need to install a Jabber app on your phone," reports Motherboard. "You'll also need to install a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) app, which allows your phone to make calls and send texts over the internet instead of the regular cellular network." Lastly, you need to get your phone number, which you can do by navigating to Sopranica's JMP website. (JMP is the code, which was published by Gingerich in January, and "first part of Sopranica.") "These phone numbers are generated by Sopranica's Voice Over IP (VOIP) provider which provides talk and text services over the internet. Click whichever number you want to be your new number on the Sopranica network and enter your Jabber ID. A confirmation code should be sent to your phone and will appear in your Jabber app." As for how JMP protects against surveillance, Gingerich says, "If you're communicating with someone using your JMP number, your cell carrier doesn't actually know what your JMP number is because that's going over data and it's encrypted. So they don't know that that communication is happening."

Volunteers Around the World Build Surveillance-Free Cellular Network Called 'Sopranica'

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  • Welcome to 2004 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @09:34PM (#55662129) Homepage Journal
    SIP over XMPP? Already had it. It doesn't work well. And towers still need to know where you are in order to reach your phone. Amazing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah but, now we have an app!

      • Forgot about that. Truly a game changer. Carry on!
        • The lack of a cellular network in their cellular network should be no cause for concern, because it just means they're implementing the latest Clientless infrastructure advancements. This is the future!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The network needs to know "where you are", agreed. That is to say, there needs to be some way for it to route packets to your IP address.

      However, there's no reason in principle that the same entity that controls the network also needs to know *who* corresponds to each IP address, or *whom* you're communicating with.

      It may not yet be a solved problem, but it's far from an impossible one.

      • However, there's no reason in principle that the same entity that controls the network also needs to know *who* corresponds to each IP address

        Other than knowing who to send the monthly bill to, or who to charge the pay-as-you-go to, no reason at all.

        If you've already managed to get around them knowing who you are (by cash pay-as-you-go?), then what does this new system gain you? Your location, if not your name, will be known no matter what, when you get your internet over your phone.

    • "SIP over XMPP? Already had it. It doesn't work well."

      Perhaps it didn't work well in 2004 when there were no smartphones.

      "And towers still need to know where you are in order to reach your phone."

      Where I live, the whole town has free wifi, the young kids don't even own a SIM card, the don't care about towers.

      • You can still do SIP over XMPP. It still doesn't work, smartphone or no smartphone. Go try it. There are a few SIP/XMPP combos. This isn't a new idea. There is no difference between a smartphone and a computer from 2004.
        • Be advised: Google Voice is a thing, and does work.

          Just because they shut off 3rd party access doesn't mean it didn't work.

      • by jon3k ( 691256 )

        Where I live, the whole town has free wifi

        What town is this?

    • But they don't know who you are.

  • by WolfgangVL ( 3494585 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @09:59PM (#55662191)

    As of right now, I've walked MANY through getting google voice going on mobiles and ditching the monthly bill. Works good until they catch on and force you re-verify the number you setup, at which point it seems your no longer able to make calls (originating from that number) but you can still receive voice mail. The privacy trade-off is obvious when working with any google product, but for quick and dirty free wifi phone it worked great (last time i set it up for somebody)

    It sounds like this is pretty damn close to the same thing, only without all the snoopy big tech middle man garbage. I'm going to try it.

    These phone numbers are generated by Sopranica's Voice Over IP (VOIP) provider which provides talk and text services over the internet.

    Regarding the encryption, where does it take place? Is this privacy-centric un-named VOIP provider/DIY network subject to NSLs?

    I suppose I should RTFA....

    • by slazzy ( 864185 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @10:43PM (#55662283) Homepage Journal
      Port your number to voip.ms, $1 per month will keep it running incase you need to re-verify. You can forward it anywhere you like as well or setup sip, text etc.
      • I find VoIP.ms to be better than google voice in most cases anyway. GV seems to be using a pretty inefficient codec, so while the call quality may be just fine over WiFi or a good LTE connection, it starts to die pretty quickly as your signal degrades. Over 3G it's pretty choppy even with a good signal.

        Meanwhile VoIP.ms let's you pick from several different codecs. I find g729 work quite well even on a shitty 3G connection.

        They also let you do wonderful things like set up IVRs to block out spam calls. I

    • yea, it sounds too good to be true so i guess i'll RTFA for once too hahah ... and as most things (from google voice to about any "win a nvdia 10k 2160ptx munstoorr for free) its probably (in very small letters) US residents only well i dont know if huhhelheim is US only, but its certainly not available here (police state wouldnt like it i suppose) ... and also paying taxes to five governments for a potential market the size of new york or tokyo is (from a corporate pov) probably a good reason why not to tr
  • How's this different than using SIP over one of the http://www.talkonaut.com/ [talkonaut.com] clients?

    It's at least 11 years old.. Can't reinvent the wheel.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Another voice over internet protocol app! Wooooow

  • Portmanteau (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dohzer ( 867770 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @01:55AM (#55662625) Homepage

    Sopranica is a portmanteau of the words "Sopranos" (i.e. The Sopranos, criminal activity and shady dealings hidden from public view and the authorities) and "Silica" (i.e. the chemical compound used to make silicon wafers for manufacturing microchips).

    Crime through Technology.
    Sopran-ica.

  • If people want to get surveillance free networks they have to get a handheld radio (or base station at home) and get a transmitter for it (with range up to ~100 km). The problem today is that no easy way to network together many transmitters over the internet and it requires a licensed frequencies (public channels are off limit for this type of usage). It is possible but last I knew the set-up is both difficult and not necessary a stable one (might require a lot of DIY hardware). Radio to radio communicatio

  • by JMP_chat ( 5177899 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @10:51AM (#55663695)
    I'm Denver, "the programmer behind Soprani.ca", and specifically JMP [jmp.chat]. Feel free to ask me any questions about JMP, WOM, or Soprani.ca as a whole that haven't been answered in the comments section yet. I'd be happy to hear from you.
  • by Herve5 ( 879674 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @03:56PM (#55665009)

    ... but as some already said, it's just an app more...
    If really you want to see what an actual, independent mesh network can be, please go to http://www.servalproject.org/ [servalproject.org]
    And yes there is an app :-D
    But this one, works -including from tablets with no SIMcard inside.
    IMHO the only issue is, this will become useable only when thousands will run it, including some in your neigborhood...

  • I wonder how Sopranica and Jitsi compare. Are their missions overlapping? Different use-cases? I know that Jitsi's big push is enterprise stuff whereas Sopranica seems more of a hobbyist endeavour.

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