Who’d have thought in 2011 – the year of the fibre optic broadband connection – we’d be cementing USB sticks into the wall to share files? Not me, but that’s exactly what the term “dead drop” entails.
Devised by blogger Aram Bartholl, this offline and anonymous file sharing method has taken off around the globe and couldn’t be simpler to use. The project’s creator is keen for others to use and install their own dead drops, with more turning up on a daily basis. If you’re sitting there thinking “I have to give this a go!” then read on!
Security & File Sharing
Naturally there are a few concerns regarding security and anonymous USB sticks, so caution is recommended. After all, the idea is to provide an anonymous filesharing platform that anyone can have access to.
Yes, it is possible for someone to copy malicious software onto the drive (along with an autorun file) that may install something you’d rather not have on your PC. I’d recommend you have all necessary security software setup or connect with a virtual machine for ultimate piece of mind. Downloading a Linux live CD is another sure-fire way of avoiding infection.
I’m not saying that every dead drop is littered with trojans and malware – you just can’t trust some people. If you have an old laptop with little of importance on it then use it, otherwise any devices that support the mounting of universal mass storage (UMS) devices should also work too (don’t forget your cables).
Finally when you eventually get to a dead drop you’ll be holding your laptop against a wall, propped up in an odd position which may look… well, strange to passers by. It might be safer to avoid pulling your MacBook Pro out in a dark alley at midnight, let’s put it that way.
The Dead Drop Manifesto
The dead drops movement is a fairly organised one, and it may surprise you to learn that there is a manifesto to read and a few rules you to follow should you wish to participate. The manifesto states: “anyone can access a Dead Drop and everyone may install a Dead Drop in their neighborhood/city“.
This means that if you want to start your own dead drop, then it must not be in a publicly closed-off space (for example a bar, club or similar). The project’s creator defines city streets as “the only true public space” – so if you want your drop listed on the official website, play by the rules.
There is already a well-written and thorough guide about installing a dead drop on the official site, and the steps are fairly easy to follow. You’ll need a spare USB drive (of any size), a copy of the dead drop readme.txt that explains the project’s aims, some plumbers tape and quick drying cement.
If manual work isn’t your strong point, this guide on Instructables might also be of value. Once your drop has been installed you’re urged to make it look neat and attractive before taking three photos – one of the area near your drop, one of the street it can be found on and a close-up shot of the drop itself.
Once you’ve done that you can submit it to Aram and if it adheres to the manifesto it will be included on the official site, for others to discover.
Dead Dropping All Over The World
Lucky Android users can download the “Deaddropdroid” app from the Android Market which uses your location to determine nearby drops. The app is currently in beta, and an iOS version is apparently on the way soon for iPhone users.
Finally – what will you share? There are no limits to what is shared, though many have found dead drops the perfect platform from which to share their own creations. Are you an artist or photographer? Why not add your portfolio to a dead drop – you never know who might drop by.
Musicians, writers, charities and community workers could all use drops to spread word of their cause. Then again perhaps you just fancy sharing your favourite Thundercats episode?
The thought behind the dead drops project is well-meaning and above all fun. Provided you exercise caution, especially if you’re using a Windows PC, and make sure there’s no gum or other damaging foreign matter in the stick before you’re hooked up then your offline filesharing experience will probably be a pleasant one.
Do you think dead drops are a good idea? Have you shared? Have you established a drop? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so stick them in the comments below this post.