Researchers tout new anonymity network

Researchers tout new anonymity network
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Researchers have developed a network architecture they claim is a dramatically more efficient way for users to interact anonymously.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Swiss École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne collaborated on the project, known as “Riffle networking.” 

Riffle was not designed to access the broader Internet, the way many anonymous networks like Tor do. It can, however, anonymize transactions across a single network of users more efficiently — and more anonymously — than a Tor-type network or others. 

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“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,” said MIT graduate student Albert Kwon, the lead researcher on Riffle, in a press release. 

Riffle, like Tor, could make it more difficult for law enforcement to trace the source of illegal or copyrighted files being transmitted over a network. It could also make it more difficult for an oppressive regime to prevent free expression or coordination among dissident groups. 

Tor works by bouncing data from server to server with a fresh layer of encryption stripped off at each server. But if someone controls the fist and last steps, it is relatively easy to determine who is communicating.

Riffle mixes up the order of servers, making it difficult to figure out who is contacting what. 

The Riffle network also improves efficiency by using what is known as symmetric-key encryption rather than the traditional public key encryption. Public key encryption uses more bandwidth to transmit the same size message, taxing the network. It also requires more complex math, a burden on every server and user involved in sending the message. 

Riffle will be presented later this month at the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium in Darmstadt, Germany.