Find your own private Internet with Freenet

Like BitTorrent with websites, Freenet lets you communicate and share data anonymously with other privacy-conscious folks around the world.

An example of a Freenet website, or freesite.

An example of a Freenet website, or freesite.

Anonymous peer-to-peer communication on the Internet isn't just a handy tool for privacy enthusiasts; it's critical for preserving free speech in the digital world. Anonymous file-sharing services like BitTorrent are legion, but their utility is limited--you can share only files--and their reputations are unfairly tarnished by people who use them to share media illegally. If you're looking for a highly anonymous peer-to-peer network with websites, forums, and more, look no farther than the Free Network, one of the best-kept secrets in anonymous communication.

Here's how it works: Freenet is an anonymous peer-to-peer data-sharing network similar to BitTorrent, but with one key difference: All uploaded data is assigned a unique key, sliced up into small, encrypted chunks and scattered across different computers on the network. That form of data storage means that--unlike with BitTorrent--you don't have to keep your Freenet client running to seed files you want to share on the network.

Instead, when someone wants to access a piece of data--a document or photograph, for example--they "fetch" it from the network using the unique key assigned to that piece of data. Freenet routes fetch requests through intermediary computers on the network that don't store records of the request, ensuring that no single computer on the network knows the contents of any one file.

If that sounds familiar, it's because this fetching system works very similarly to the way your Web browser does when it fetches websites from the Internet. In fact, once you have the Freenet client running on your PC, you can use most Web browsers to browse files and websites stored on the Freenet. For optimal security, download the most recent version of a browser you don't normally use--say, Firefox or Chrome--and use it exclusively to browse Freenet, with private browsing enabled.

Next, head over to the Freenet Project website, and download the Freenet client for your operating system. The Freenet installer will walk you through the setup procedure and provide excellent explanations of the different levels of security you can choose from at each step of the process: who to connect to, how much of your hard drive and bandwidth to permit the Freenet client to use while it's running, and so on.

The biggest choice you have to make is whether to use Freenet in friends-only mode--also known as darknet mode--for maximum privacy. In darknet mode, you can connect to Freenet only through trusted friends with whom you exchange encryption keys, which makes it very difficult for anyone to track what you're doing on Freenet or even to determine that you're accessing Freenet in the first place. Of course, funneling your Freenet access through a handful of trusted friends will create a traffic bottleneck that throttles your download speeds--so if you go this route, try to convince at least five or ten friends to join up with you so you can fetch Freenet websites (or "freesites," as they're called) and files from Freenet at a semi-decent speed.

Once the Freenet client is up and running, right-click the client icon in your Windows taskbar and select Open Freenet to access the Freenet welcome page in your browser of choice. From here, you can browse Freenet, chat on Freenet forums, and connect with other Freenet users.

Freenet is a complex and powerful tool for privacy enthusiasts, capable of scaling to meet your privacy needs. If you want to build a private web of communication linking a few trusted friends, Freenet can help you do that. If you just want a way to share and consume content anonymously, Freenet can help you do that too.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Networkingsecuritypeer-to-peerprivacy

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Alex Wawro

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place