Black Hat Challenges Network Neutrality with N00ter

LAS VEGAS. The idea behind network neutrality is that everyone is supposed to get equal access on a network. It’s an idea that has political implications as well as technical ones for the network.

At the Black Hat security conference this week, security researcher Dan Kaminsky detailed his plan to help users identify if the sites they visit are being throttled by their service providers. Kaminsky calls his new tool, ‘n00ter’ the neutrality router.

“As an engineer I thought it would be interesting to find subtle violations of network neutrality, how do you detect biased networks,” Kaminsky said.

Kaminsky explained that the n00ter router looks to an ISP as if the site is talking directly to a user without interruption. What n00ter does is it helps to normalize the traffic to a single route to see what impact there might be.

“The long and the short of it is this, ISPs can do what they want,” Kaminsky said. “As an engineer I’m here to tell you that whatever changes are done might as well be transparent because we can now detect them with type of technology.”

Kaminsky noted that with n00ter, he’s sending a message to ISPs that they shouldn’t be doing anything that they want on the front page of the newspaper because they’re slowing down traffic.

“It is impossible to make a filter that n00ter cannot detect,” Kaminsky said. “The defenses that one might deploy to make n00ter unable work, those defences are easily detected.”

The n00ter router is not yet publicly available though Kaminsky said he expect to make in generally available in a few weeks under an open source license.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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