Anonymous is testing Airchat, a free communications tool for the world that uses only radio wavesLulz Labs
Online hacktivist collective Anonymous has announced that it is working on a new tool called Airchat which could allow people to communicate without the need for a phone or an internet connection - using radio waves instead.
Anonymous, the amorphous group best known for attacking high profile targets like Sony and the CIA in recent years, said on the Lulz Labs project's Github page: "Airchat is a free communication tool [that] doesn't need internet infrastructure [or] a cell phone network. Instead it relies on any available radio link or device capable of transmitting audio."
The idea is that people all over the world, including those in rural areas and developing countries, will one day be able to communicate for free without the need for a mobile phone network, phone line or internet access.
While the project is workable at the moment, it is simply a proof of concept at this stage and Anonymous has revealed Airchat in the hope to get more people involved in developing the technology as well as raising funds.
Despite the Airchat system being highly involved and too complex for most people in its current form, Anonymous says it has so far used it to play interactive chess games with people at 180 miles away; share pictures and even established encrypted low bandwidth digital voice chats.
In order to get Airchat to work, you will need to have a handheld radio transceiver, a laptop running either Windows, Mac OS X or Linux, and be able to install and run several pieces of complex software.
Anonymous says that a cheap radio transmitter costs as little as $40 (£23.80) meaning the system should be affordable to most people or communities.
However because the system isn't working with a specific make or model of transmitter, connecting them to your laptop is a little tricky as there is no standard connector on these devices.
"Almost every single home in this world has a common AM and/or FM radio. In cases where not everyone is able to get [a] cheap radio transceiver, [they can] at least be able to decode packets being transmitted via a pirate FM station" Anonymous said.
The video above shows the Airchat tool in use, evening managing to pull up Twitter search results for the keyword "Ukraine". While it is clearly not as fast and graphically rich as a standard internet browser, for someone looking to get crucial information fast, it could prove a vital tool.
Anonymous says that Airchat has numerous use cases other than preventing government agencies like the NSA from spying on citizens, ranging from people living in countries where the internet has been shut down or censored, such as Twitter being banned in Turkey or the telecommunications network being shut down in Crimea by Russian forces.
NGOs and medical teams working in Africa or disaster zones who need to coordinate aid efforts or explorers at expedition basecamps who want to communicate from rural areas or with rescue teams would also find the solution useful.
Connecting the world
This is not the first time that Anonymous has tried to create free communications to connect the world.
Since the Arab Springs began in 2010, Anonymous has opened up communication channels in countries when they have been closed, creating internet access points and producing "care packages" that include information about everything from first aid to how to access dial-up internet, for example, in Syria in 2012.
The hacktivist collective has also worked together with the dissident group Telecomix to help activists access banned websites in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Jordan, and Zimbabwe.