San Francisco, – The renowned technology activist group, Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc), formerly known for distributing hacking tools and advocating for improved security measures, has shifted its focus towards the development of a groundbreaking system. Veilid, pronounced “vay-lid,” is a coding framework designed to enable app developers to create messaging and social networking applications that prioritize user privacy by avoiding the retention of personal data.
Veilid utilizes strong end-to-end encryption, akin to platforms like Signal for text messages and voice calls, and Tor for anonymous web browsing. The new system aims to provide a solid foundation for messaging, file sharing, and social networking applications without data harvesting, making interception of user information difficult, even for governments.
The developers of Veilid plan to present the project at the prestigious Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas next week. The system will foster encrypted content transfer between applications using the Veilid protocol. Adopting a decentralized “peer-to-peer” network model, similar to BitTorrent, where data is shared among devices rather than from a central server, Veilid is expected to become faster and more efficient as more devices join the network.
While developers may charge for Veilid-compatible apps or implement advertising, the potential revenue streams are constrained by the inability to collect detailed user information, a practice that has been central to targeted advertising and product marketing.
Although the team behind Veilid has not released detailed documentation explaining the design choices, and an initial messaging app that works without requiring a phone number is still in development, the project gains momentum in a climate of discontent among social network and chat users who are increasingly critical of platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Moreover, Veilid aligns with the resistance against governmental efforts, such as Britain’s Online Safety Bill, to undermine strong encryption by demanding content disclosure or user identities.
Prominent civil rights activists, as well as supporters of abortion rights, have also expressed concern over law enforcement agencies’ use of text messages and Facebook Messenger to investigate abortion-related cases in states with restricted access to the procedure.
Cindy Cohn, the executive director of the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, praised the development of an all-encompassing end-to-end encryption framework, stating, “We can move past the surveillance business model.”
The FBI declined to comment on the matter, though law enforcement agencies often express concerns that end-to-end encryption hampers their ability to detect criminal plots and gather evidence.
Veilid marks a significant release from Cult of the Dead Cow, the most enduring and influential U.S. hacking group, known for coining the term “hacktivism” by merging hacking and activism. Emerging from humble beginnings on pre-web bulletin boards in the 1980s, the group now comprises some of the most prominent figures in the field of cybersecurity. Notably, some of its members were among the first to publicly expose security vulnerabilities in widely used software and coordinate with vendors to patch the identified flaws.
As the development of Veilid continues to unfold, it promises to revolutionize the landscape of digital communication, championing user privacy and challenging conventional surveillance practices.