The sale and distribution of the Proxyham anonymous Internet browsing device, source code and blueprints has been stopped in its tracks a month before launch.
At the beginning of this month, security researcher Benjamin Caudill from Rhino Security Labs unveiled Proxyham, a device small enough to be slotted into a book and squirrelled away in a separate location from the user in order to confuse Internet traffic tracking systems.
Proxyham is a $200 device made up of a Raspberry Pi PC and antennas. The product uses low-frequency radio channels to connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots up to 2.5 miles away, and if a user's signature is traced, the only IP address which appears is from the Proxyham box which can be planted far away from the user.
Caudill was quoted as saying, "You can have it all the way across town, and worst case scenario the police go barge into the library across town." This, in itself, may be an indication as to why the device's launch, meant to take place at the Def Con hacker conference in Las Vegas next month, has met a sudden and abrupt end.
Through Twitter, Rhino Labs said "Effective immediately, we are halting further dev on Proxyham and will not be releasing any further details or source for the device."
However, it's not just development by the security firm which has been stopped. Defcon attendees will no doubt be disappointed, but units originally intended for distribution at the security event will now no longer be available:
In addition, Caudill will no longer be hosting a talk at Defcon on the device, whistleblowers and the challenge of being anonymous online. Rhino Labs apologized, but no explanation has been forthcoming.
One reason could be a secret sale of the device to another party. However, this was quickly quashed by the security firm, which said they "can't go into any further details" on either the research or cancelled talk:
The excitement generated after the unveiling of this product appears to clash with its abrupt end. However, feelings can be known in other ways -- even if, for example, gag orders are in place.
A link retweeted by Rhino Labs points to a CSO article picking apart the situation for clues. As noted by the publication, FFC licenses for the use of radio waves are not an issue, neither are patent disputes at the heart of the matter.
As Proxyham has not been sold on, another possibility is that of a National Security Letter. When asked whether an NSL had been issued, Caudill only said "no comment."
As mentioned before, this is speculation. However, if a government order is the reason the product will not be put within public reach, it is a sad day for privacy enthusiasts and activists alike.