[Freedombox-discuss] Wireless routers "knitted" together

Ben Mendis dragonwisard at gmail.com
Wed Aug 22 04:22:13 UTC 2012

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The paper they refer to acknowledges the recent research into using
ad-hoc mesh networks as a backup communication system for emergency
responders. They assert that mesh node density may be insufficient in
certain geographic areas to maintain the necessary coverage of the mesh.

Based on this assertion, they are proposing that "at some point in the
future" an emergency switch would be implemented into all (or most?)
home routers such that the could be flipped from normal mode into an
emergency mesh network mode granting access to emergency responders.

They then proceed to use an Android wardriving app to collect data on
existing residential WiFi-enabled routers one neighborhood and make the
case that these routers would be capable of running the necessary
software to form a mesh network with consistent coverage of that

Although the paper appears to be well-researched and well-written, I
think they focus too much on the wardriving aspect and trying to
establish the proliferation of privately owned WiFi equipment in a
particular urban neighborhood in a well-developed country. There is a
lot of important discussion which they seem to leave out of this paper.
They may have already addressed it in their previous paper, which they
reference several times, however I have not read that one.

Some of the issues I see, which I would have liked to see addressed

1. Who has the authority to activate the emergency switch, and what
mechanisms prevent its abuse?

2. What mechanism is used to activate this emergency switch?

3. Who has access to make use of the mesh network after it has been
activated? The paper seems to imply that it would only be used by
emergency responders, but their methodology is to open it up such that
anyone would be able to connect and access the network.

4. What liability would individuals face if their network was misused by
guests while this emergency switch was activated? Eg, what happens if
someone uses your now-unlocked network to commit a crime such as
illegally transferring copyrighted materials or child pornography?

5. How would the network be utilized in the absence of Internet access?
In the use case the authors describe, the mesh network is being
activiated because of a failure of traditional infrastructure, so it's
reasonable to assume that Internet access would be scare to impossible
in the region.

6. If traditional infrastructure is disrupted, that could include power
lines, how many of the residential routers they identified would still
be online if power was lost?

Could FreedomBox implement something similar to what they describe?
Easily. However I think it would be more interesting and arguably more
valuable for FreedomBox to implement an always-on mesh network rather
than one that is only switched on when emergency responders deem it is

That's my two cents.

On Wed, 22 Aug 2012, Sandy Harris wrote:

> http://www.securityweek.com/home-wifi-could-be-used-emergency-responders
> Is this something the Box should/could support? Is the method discussed in
> the article the right one for us?
> _______________________________________________
> Freedombox-discuss mailing list
> Freedombox-discuss at lists.alioth.debian.org
> http://lists.alioth.debian.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/freedombox-discuss
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