For as little as $35--essentially the cost to procure a wireless router--PirateBox enables you to DIY an anonymous offline mobile file-sharing and communications system to trade movies and music, and chat with friends secluded and safe from the prying eyes of Big Brother, whip-cracking bosses, and your mom. The free PirateBox installer and software, developed by Berlin-based NYU professor David Darts, can create an open offline wireless network virtually anywhere.
PirateBox pairs as easily with phones and tablets as it does desktops and laptops. It uses a UPnP Media Server for local streaming of movies and songs, and includes an image and message board for 4chan-like functionality, plus chat room capabilities for anonymous communications. When users who join an established PirateBox wireless network open their web browser they are automatically redirected to the system's welcome page where they can begin sharing and communicating with others in the network. The system aims to be private and secure; it requires no logins and user data is never recorded. All users remain anonymous, and PirateBox's deliberate isolation from the Internet subverts tracking and further preserves user privacy.
In addition to trading digital booty and chatting up buddies during boring lectures and presentations, PirateBox has been used by:
- Musicians to share their music at festivals and gigs.
- Teachers to distribute and collect digital materials from students.
- Coworkers collaborating on projects.
- Emergency response workers and volunteers who publish local first aid information and community updates.
- Librarians and writers to collect, store, and distribute electronic texts
- Conference organizers to distribute conference materials and to provide local wireless commenting during presentations.
- CryptoParty workshop leaders to securely share cryptographic keys.
PirateBox, currently in iteration 1.0, provides the downloads and (supposedly easy) instructions for assembly on its Website. Those interested in the DIY anonymous network build will need:
- One of these wireless routers: TP-Link MR3020; TP-LINK WR703N; or TP-LINK MR3040. [See "Related Gifts" listing below for purchase links.]
- A USB flash drive, formatted FAT32 with a single partition. (PirateBoxers recommend the Kingston DT 16GB.)
- An ethernet cable.
- A computer with ethernet port.
- A 5V/USB battery (optional).
Note: PirateBox will also run on most wireless routers that have USB storage and that are capable of running OpenWrt, though build process is more advanced. It is also possible to build a PirateBox with a Raspberry Pi or Laptop running Linux.
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