[tor-talk] Fwd: ANONdroid

Paul Syverson syverson at itd.nrl.navy.mil
Thu Jan 26 07:18:00 PST 2012

On Thu, Jan 26, 2012 at 10:35:20AM +0200, Maxim Kammerer wrote:
> On Thu, Jan 26, 2012 at 10:05, Karsten N. <kn at awxcnx.de> wrote:
> > It is possible, to deanonymize a single user by some features (user IP
> > address, website monitoring or user account). The idedentify feature for
> > the malicious user has to be provided by the law enforcement agency and
> > all operators have to get an official order in their country.
> So there is no difference from Tor?

JonDoNym and Tor have some significant aspects in common, but they are
fundamentally different in the basis for their security. JonDoNym is a
mix cascade design (or `MIX' as some would write it). This means that
all the messages (packets/cells) that enter the network together
(enter a node at roughly the same time) proceed through the network
together in a batch and leave the network together (exit at a
predictable but distinct node all at the same time). In principle,
this means that an adversary will have a difficult time separating
messages in a batch from one another.  (In practice, research
indicates that the situation for low-latency traffic is, let's just be
generous and say, more complicated.) This is the basis of the security
they provide.  Onion routing designs like Tor derive their security
primarily from the unpredictability of routes: just seeing a message
from a client enter the network does not tell you where it is going to
come out.

The pros and cons of these are a matter of long debate. (I miss you,
Andreas.) I come down strongly on the side of onion routing as an
approach. Many detailed research papers address lots of the issues,
but much of my position is captured in my "Why I'm not an Entropist."
(Let me know if you want to see it and can't find it.)  The basic
difference is roughly that mix cascades attempt to hide you well in a
predictable 'anonymity set'. Onion routing networks attempt to make it
hard to know where to look/attack if you want to de-anonymize, e.g.,
what website someone is browsing. And the Tor network is intended to
be big enough and in diverse enough jurisdictions that it is hard for
any one adversary to look everywhere (thousands of nodes
worldwide). That's the main idea, skipping a lot of aspects, such as
the possible benefits (or not) of combining the two approachers.

> > An scientific paper about the "Revocable Anonymity" impleneted by
> > JonDonym
> I see, so is that an optional feature that can be turned on by a MIX
> router operator once served by a surveillance order? It seems to me
> that it's an advantage over Tor, where relay operators can be served
> with an order and some Tor patches that they wouldn't be able to turn
> down to to the absence of a similar feature in Tor. Revocable
> Anonymity seems to be designed to provide the minimum necessary
> information to law enforcement.

Many security researchers, including myself, are quite resistant to
the idea of revocable anonymity. Designing, building, and deploying
a system to be secure is incredibly hard even without the added burden
of building in a systematic means to selectively remove its security
properties. See, for example, Matt Blaze's work on key escrow. See
http://www.acsac.org/2011/program/keynotes/ for his recent retrospective.

But leaving that entire issue aside, from my above comment, I hope it
is apparent that there is another important difference from mix
cascades. For Tor such a surveillance order for purposes of tracking
particular communicants would be pointless, and thus presumably
unjustified. Unlike cascades, a message entering the network in one
location might come out at any exit node, anywhere in the world. And
if, e.g., one observes communication exiting a particular network node
and arriving at a destination of interest, there is no reason to think
that future communication, even from the same originating client is
likely to emerge from that same node. In fact just the opposite.

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