BOFFINS AT the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) have revealed 'Riffle', a new form of anonymous sharing that can share files in around a tenth of the time of previous systems.
Researchers from the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne will present the new system, which they hope will guarantee safety in even the most contentious territories, at this month's Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium.
“The initial use case that we thought of was to do anonymous file-sharing, where the receiving end and sending end don’t know each other,” explained Albert Kwon, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science and lead author on the paper.
"The reason is that things like honey-potting are a real issue. But we also studied applications in microblogging, something like Twitter, where you want to anonymously broadcast your messages to everyone."
Honeypotting is, we're reliably informed, the practice of befriending someone over an anonymous network in order to catch them off guard.
The system is, in fact, a combination of existing techniques such as Onion Routing, familiar to users as the basis for Tor, but also a technique of rearranging in what order messages are sent and received as they bounce between servers, meaning that an interceptor would have no clue what came from where.
Riffle uses a technique called verifiable shuffle which allows the receiving system to check back with each server to make sure that's definitely what it sent.
But rather than checking each server individually, which would slow the process to a crawl, Riffle uses authentication encryption to get all the servers to agree on a password and then stick to it.
"When you use standard encryption on the internet, you use an expensive public-key cryptosystem to encrypt a short key, and then you use symmetric-key techniques to encrypt your longer message," said Jonathan Katz, director of the Maryland Cybersecurity Centere and a professor of computer science at the University of Maryland.
"But it’s novel in the context of these mixnets. They’ve been around for 20, 25 years, and nobody has had this insight until now.
"In the standard context of encryption, you have the honest sender and the honest receiver, and they’re defending against an external malicious attacker. Here, you need stronger properties.
"The issue is that the server that’s doing the shuffling might itself be malicious. So you need a way to ensure that even a malicious server can’t shuffle incorrectly.” µ
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