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Tyler – an overview, and interview with Anonymous

The Tyler logo
The Tyler logo

Infosecurity talked to Winston Smith, who fronts the AnonUKIre group. Smith joined Anonymous a few years back after falling foul of the UK legal system. By trade he is a systems architect and financial engineer, having worked for several of the leading banks. He also served in the British Army in Northern Ireland.

“My role [in Tyler],” he says, “is simple. I propose the designs to the Anonymous Collective and they decide how it gets implemented. I am the most answerable person on the project since I have the most bosses.” It is his professional expertise that he is giving “to assist Tyler in these critical stages until it can support itself of it's own accord.” But, he warns, “Tyler will not be fully operational until 2014.” For the moment, he explained, “Tyler Network communities can be accessed currently using only the RetroShare client. Access is via a number of Master Nodes who can invite new users to the network to sync with other nodes on the Tyler network.”

When it is fully functional, Tyler will be more than WikiLeaks. The common belief is that Tyler is a response to an onerous donation regime introduced by WikiLeaks. But according to Smith, there is much more to it. With WikiLeaks, he explained, “the leaks are rarely read by people. A small amount of [specialist] journalists or researchers read the leaks and the rest are traditional media and then social networks. We need to share data – but most importantly we need to socially network securely as well. Tyler is the network of encrypted uses accessed currently by RetroShare within Anonymous who are building channels, forums, lobbies to leak, share and discuss. Anonymous is building the nest for the rest of civilization so that it can be safe for citizens to access.”

The problem with and for WikiLeaks is that it is a snake with a single head, both in spokesperson (Julian Assange) and design (wikileaks.org) – which explains, says Smith, “why Julian has become targeted by corrupt governments.” Tyler, by design is distributed and encrypted – more like a hydra. Unlike a snake, if you attempt to cut off the head (Julian Assange), it will be replaced by two more nodes and Anons.

“Building a network where all edges point to you means that you will become the target. Tyler has tens of thousands of distribution centers, where anyone can share information anonymously to the rest of the network. On a legal point of law Tyler is the very essence of the human right to a freedom of expression. Tyler only exists because that right is being interfered with.”

So what is being developed is a complete, secure and anonymous distributed social network, where individual members of the public can whistleblow securely, network with fellows anonymously, and feel safe from surveillance: it is, says Smith, “a fully encrypted social network owned by its participants and not a single organization.” Features will include all of the standard social network functionality, including VoIP, Wall, Forums, Chat, Microblog, and Blog. Credibility will be monitored by support of Whuffie features; and internal ecommerce through support for Bitcoin wallets.

“An open source, open contribution based system is being developed so that Tyler will be open to all for design, development and implementation – as it should be. Within a few months as many people who want to become involved in any aspect of it's evolution will be able to contribute anonymously. Until that time, I will be answerable to Anonymous for its design and architecture. It does not mean it's my project – it means I am the one people can shout at. Many other Anons are involved – anonymously.”

Update
Winston Smith has informed Infosecurity that he does not front AnonUKIre. This was the author's interpretation, and is incorrect.