In espionage parlance, a cut-out is a mutually trusted intermediary, method or channel of communication, facilitating the exchange of information between agents. Cutouts usually only know the source and destination of the information to be transmitted, but are unaware of the identities of any other persons involved in the espionage process (need to know basis). Thus, a captured cutout cannot be used to identify members of an espionage cell.
Some computer protocols, like Tor, use the equivalent of cutout nodes in their communications networks. Due to the use of multiple layers of encryption, nodes on networks like this do not usually know the ultimate sender or receiver of the data.
In computer networking darknets can and do have some cut out functionality. Darknets are distinct from other distributed peer-to-peer (P2P) networks as sharing is anonymous (that is, IP addresses are not publicly shared and nodes often forward traffic to other nodes). Thus, with a darknet, users can communicate with little fear of governmental or corporate interference. For this reason, darknets are often associated with dissident political communications, as well as various illegal activities.
- Wood, Jessica (2010). "A Digital Copyright Revolution" (PDF). Richmond Journal of Law and Technology 16 (4). Retrieved 25 October 2011.
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