The US government has created a 'shadow Internet', also known as the 'Internet in a suitcase', to help embattled rebels stay connected to the world in the face of oppressive regimes, the New York Times reports.
Almost unbelievably, the device is designed to look like a real suitcase. It can be smuggled across borders, and contains everything you need to set up your own Internet. It works using something called 'mesh network' technology, which turns mobile phones and computers into their own network. Data can be fired from one device to another, without travelling via the official channels.
Devices such as wireless antennas, a laptop to administer the system, thumb drives and CDs to spread software and encrypt communications would be bundled in the suitcase, which we suspect you'd struggle to get past customs.
When Egypt's leadership was overthrown earlier in the year, one of the government's last-ditch efforts to quell rebellion was powering down the Internet. That's the kind of scenario where we imagine this sort of tech would come in handy.
It could help those stuck inside a tumultuous nation to keep in touch with the outside world, and report on what's happening via Facebook or Twitter, for instance.
We admire the sentiment behind the project, which has been financed by a $2m State Department grant. We're wondering though what the potential ramifications could be if a group of ne'er-do-wells decided to use the technology for more devious means. We'd guess criminals having access to below-the-radar means of communication would hamper official efforts to track them down.
Still, we love the idea of having our own little Internet in a suitcase -- we'd take it with us on holiday to dodge data-roaming charges. We just hope it has a little red light so we know it's on.
What are your thoughts on the initiative? Let us know in the comments, or on our Facebook wall.