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New Yorker launches Aaron Swartz’ Strongbox

Secure spot for documents and messages
Thu May 16 2013, 10:54

HIGH BROW MAGAZINE the New Yorker has just rolled out Strongbox, a way of interacting securely with its journalists that was co-created by internet activist Aaron Swartz.

Swartz committed suicide after increasing pressure from US prosecutors hell-bent on punishing him for releasing academic material. It's fitting then that Strongbox is all about freedom of communications with security.

"Aaron Swartz was not yet a legend when, almost two years ago, I asked him to build an open-source, anonymous inbox. His achievements were real and varied, but the events that would come to define him to the public were still in his future: his federal criminal indictment; his leadership organizing against the censorious Stop Online Piracy Act; his suicide in a Brooklyn apartment," said a New Yorker blog post by Kevin Poulsen.

"I knew him as a programmer and an activist, a member of a fairly small tribe with the skills to turn ideas into code - another word for action - and the sensibility to understand instantly what I was looking for: a slightly safer way for journalists and their anonymous sources to communicate."

Strongbox applies various levels of security to communications, and links hardware that stretches to USB sticks and begins with the TOR anonymisation system. There is a nine step system involved and each one is designed to protect the material and the source.

"Readers and sources have long sent documents to the magazine and its reporters, from letters of complaint to classified papers. But, over the years, it's also become easier to trace the senders, even when they don't want to be found," said the New Yorker's Amy Davidson.

"Strongbox addresses that; as it's set up, even we won't be able to figure out where files sent to us come from. If anyone asks us, we won't be able to tell them."

The underlying code known as Deaddrop is available on Github. There we read that it has a simple aim, "the goal of placing a secure drop box within reach of anyone with the need". µ


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