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CIA-backed venture eyes anonymity software

Network World Fusion

(IDG) -- Software that promises users anonymity on the Web has caught the eye of the CIA's nonprofit venture capital company, In-Q-Tel, which says the technology can help the spy agency fulfill its mission.

The software is called Triangle Boy, and was developed by SafeWeb, an Oakland, Calif., start-up in which In-Q-Tel has invested about $1 million of its $30 million annual budget, according to Christopher Tucker, chief strategic officer of In-Q-Tel.

The Arlington, Va., venture capital company In-Q-Tel is one of several investors in SafeWeb, which has been around for more than a year, but officially launched last October. Its product is one of hundreds pitched to In-Q-Tel, which evaluates commercial tools looking for "solutions that can address the agency's problems," Tucker said. INFOCENTER
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Triangle Boy -- discovered by the CIA's venture capital company when one of In-Q-Tel's officials met a SafeWeb official in a San Francisco-area bar -- fits the bill, Tucker said.

"The agency is interested in secure use of the Internet," he said. "SafeWeb has one of the more novel and thoughtful approaches to providing solutions to that problem."

SafeWeb's Web site currently provides free immediate access to an "anonymizer" that lets anyone surf anonymously and securely by typing in a Web address. It replaces the URL bar with a JavaScript and establishes an encrypted connection from the user's desktop using 128-bit Secure Sockets Layer with cookies automatically disabled, Tucker said.

But Triangle Boy -- which hasn't been deployed yet -- will go a step further, allowing users to get to SafeWeb's anonymizer through a third party. The code will be open source, allowing anyone to set up third-party access to the anonymizer, Tucker said.

The CIA will use the technology primarily to protect the anonymity of its employees as they go about their jobs, Tucker said, but he didn't deny that Triangle Boy could be used in other aspects of the agency's mission, such as gathering information on terrorists and other operations it deems suspicious.

The agency "has thought through the security of its work," Tucker said. "They are probably two steps ahead of everybody else."

SafeWeb is expected to provide information about its plans to release Triangle Boy soon, Tucker added. A SafeWeb representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

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