[Freedombox-discuss] Which mesh system should be included in the Freedombox?

Paul Gardner-Stephen paul at servalproject.org
Sat Oct 12 09:53:27 UTC 2013

Hello all,

On Sat, Oct 12, 2013 at 6:06 PM, Petter Reinholdtsen <pere at hungry.com>wrote:

> [Sandy Harris]
> > As I see it, security has to be the first consideration for any Box
> > component, including a mesh system. Given the stated project goals we
> > should not even consider anything unless we have good reason to
> > consider it secure.
> Well, I believe that is putting the cart in front of the horse, given
> the current amount of people involved.  I believe we first need to get
> something useful that can be located in the privacy of the users homes
> to get that legal protection, and then we can continue improving that to
> make it more and more "secure", which is a word that mean different
> things to different people and thus hard to have as a fuzzy goal.
> This mean to me that we pick solutions already in common use and
> integrate it into the Freedombox, and depend on the rest of the free
> software community to audit it (with our help, if someone in the
> Freedombox want to spend time on it).
> > If something looks desirable but has not had an audit for security,
> > then auditing it and contributing fixes if needed is more important
> > for the Box than things like getting it into Debian or making it run
> > on a Dreamplug.
> I am happy to hear that you want to focus on that area, and suggest you
> have a look at the batman-adv mesh routing system when you find time to
> audit mesh systems.
> I've concluded I will focus on batman-adv for now, as it provide layer 2
> mesh networking (as in both IPv4 and IPv6 will work) and is used by the
> Serval project that provide a peer-to-peer phone system that allow phone
> calls and "SMS" messaging without central infrastucture.  If the
> freedombox provide mesh nodes compatible with the Serval project, we get
> free software phone support for free. :)

So some clarification here:

Serval used to use the original layer-3 batman, and can still coexist with
batman, batman-adv, babel, olsrd etc.  But Serval now includes its own mesh
routing protocol, for many of the reasons that are stimulating discussion

Some of those reasons include the difficulty of making a secure fully
distributed network, especially a mesh network.   Indeed, this was a major
reason for us side-stepping IP, and creating our own mesh-oriented network

We started from the ground-up by using public cryptography keys as network
addresses.  This means that we promiscuously share and exchange public keys
on the network as part of its inherent operation.  It also means that
end-to-end encryption is trivial, requires no key exchange, centralised
authority or other complication. Indeed, encryption is so simple in the
Serval network layer that we enable it by default: you need to set flags on
a packet if you don't want it signed and encrypted.

Careful choice of crypto system means that it is still fast, and doesn't
need huge keys.  We also added an address abbreviation scheme that means
that we typically have smaller network headers than IPv4, let alone IPv6.

That leaves only key verification to ensure private man-in-the-middle-free
communications with any party on the network -- a problem that the
open-source community has largely solved with web of trust.

This security platform was recently recognised at the Global Security
Challenge grand-final in London where we received an Honourable Mention,
coming a close second in the entire competition -- against entrants from
the USA, UK, Israel and other major players in the security space.

We do not rest on our laurels, nor do we take the praise of men as meaning
that we have a perfect or vulnerability-free system.  But we do believe
that we have created something that has great potential in the open-source
world, and especially for projects like Freedom Box where private
correspondence (text, voice and data) on a fully-distributed
self-organising network is a major objective.

As mentioned, because all Serval services operate in parallel to IP, this
means you can mix and match Serval service with your favourite traditional
mesh routing protocols should you wish to use them.

It also means that we can use interesting radio platforms that are too slow
to be useful on IP, e.g., ~100kbit/sec ISM band radios that have ranges 10x
to 100x that of Wi-Fi.  We already have a working example of this in our
Serval Mesh Extender hardware device, which also shares many common
objectives with the Freedom Box.

We think that we have some interesting technologies that are of use to this
community, and of course since we develop them as free and open-source
software, we encourage this community to take whatever they find useful,
and perhaps even open a conversation for us to work out what activities and
efforts are in the intersection of our needs and objectives, and apply some
combined energy that will accelerate our mutual progress towards our goals.


> See my blog post from yesterday,
> <URL:
> http://people.skolelinux.org/pere/blog/Oslo_community_mesh_network___with_NUUG_and_Hackeriet_at_Hausmania.html
> >,
> for more details of what I have found out so far.
> --
> Happy hacking
> Petter Reinholdtsen
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> 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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