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New tool tells you when your ISP is slowing you down

Net neutrality is of big concern these days, and for good reason. If some Internet service providers had their way, they’d control the speed at which the Internet flows, arguing that resource hogs, like downloading torrents, should be slowed down a bit to open up bandwidth for everything else. On the other hand, that opens up a huge ethical can of worms. For example, what if one site pays to be faster than a competitor? It would set a precedent that could vastly change the Internet as we know it.

Dan Kaminsky, a noted security researcher, unveiled his answer at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. Called N00ter for ‘neutral router,’  Kaminsky’s new program can detect if tiny fluctuation’s in one’s connection speed are simply part of the system or if it’s a controlled slowdown by an ISP. 

“How do you detect subtle violations in network neutrality? How do you detect biased networks?” Kaminksy asked during his presentation, according to Forbes. “I’m here as an engineer to tell you that we will find you out. And we will find out in a way that’s incontrovertible.”

What Kaminsky’s worried about is something sneakier than users finding that The Pirate Bay is suddenly loading far more slowly than the Disney site. Instead, subtle changes in speed could go unnoticed but still affect user’s habits, who tend to gravitate towards sites that load more quickly. N00ter, which should be released in a few weeks, eliminates all other variables in load times by creating its own sort of VPN, routing traffic through a proxy that masks both its destination and source. N00ter tricks the ISP into loading the site at full throttle, which the program compares with load times from the standard connection. 

The end goal for Kaminsky is accountability. According to him, whatever model the Internet follows (neutral or not), any changes need to be made clear to users.

“Whatever changes we have, they might as well be transparent,” he said. “People need data. My hope is that we can give people economy-promoting data at the network level. I just provide the data.”

Photo via Wikipedia

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