Software update: Freenet 0.7 build 1227

Freenet is a network that can be used to exchange information anonymously. All user data is stored and distributed on different nodes within the network. To be able to find the data again, a unique key is used. On top of this network, various applications can be used, such as Freemail and Frost. The developers have released a new build of Freenet 0.7 with 1227 as the exact build number. The corresponding announcement looks like this:

Various security improvements and preparation for Bloom filter sharing in new stable build

Build 1227 is now available, including many changes. Existing Freenet nodes will update automatically. Some of the more interesting new features include:

  • Finally fixing The Register’s attack!
    In 2005, The Register discovered what many of us had known for some time – that Freenet caches everything you visit in your datastore, and therefore that if your computer is seized or stolen, the bad guys may be able to determine what you have been browsing. Or they could even do it remotely by probing your datastore. This is now fixed. Freenet does not store anything that you download, visit, or upload, in your datastore. However, to maximise performance, we do have a private cache of freesites you have visited, called the “client cache”, and we have a “slashdot cache” which caches everything else but only for 30 minutes, to help with propagating Frost/FMS posts and flash floods. We had planned to fix this with encrypted tunnels (formerly known as premix routing), but that is a difficult project which may cost a lot of performance. The changes in this build may reduce performance slightly, but they will enable new things which should greatly improve performance, as well as improving Freenet’s usefulness in hostile regimes. No security system is perfect, but nevertheless Freenet may be better for a specific application than the alternatives, especially if you can use darknet, and darknet Freenet can function where very little else will.
  • Encryption for sensitive local data
    Both the new client cache and the downloads/uploads database can now be encrypted. This is controlled by the “physical security level” setting. If you set this to LOW, nothing is encrypted, not even temporary files, and Freenet will use less CPU and work slightly faster. If you set it to NORMAL or higher, Freenet now encrypts your client cache and downloads database. At NORMAL, the keys are kept in a file master.keys, so if you securely delete this file (or click the panic button on the downloads page), both are gone. At HIGH, the keys are still in master.keys, but it is password-protected. At MAXIMUM, the keys are not stored at all, they are different every time you start Freenet; this means that your download queue will only last until the next restart, but at least you can be sure that if you restart the node, nobody can tell what you were doing with it. So you have detailed control over the tradeoff between security, convenience and performance. This allows those with slow computers to use LOW, and those who live in hostile regimes where their computer is likely to be seized to use HIGH or MAXIMUM.
  • Preparation for Bloom filter sharing
    There were two reasons for all this. The first is to improve security for those living in hostile regimes where their computer may be seized and they may get into trouble for what they have been doing on Freenet. The second is to prepare for the big performance feature for 0.8, Bloom filter sharing. Essentially, the idea is that we tell our peers what keys we have in our datastore using a highly compressed data structure called a Bloom filter. We can then tell immediately when one of our peers has the block we are looking for, potentially avoiding searching and transferring the data through many other nodes. This should improve performance considerably, reducing latency, increasing download speeds, and making it easier to find rare content. Watch this space!

Version number 0.7 build 1227
Release status beta
Operating systems Windows 7, Linux, Windows XP, macOS, Windows Vista
Website Freenet Project
License type Conditions (GNU/BSD/etc.)