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Re: strengthening remailer protocols

At 9:25 PM 9/2/96, John Anonymous MacDonald wrote:
>I don't really see the use of this complicated scheme.  The main
>problem seems to be that if M floods remailer R with messages to B,
>and A sends a message to C through R, then it will be clear to M that
>A's message was destined for C.
>Rather than divert messages, then, I propose that for each input
>message there is a 10% chance that a piece of cover traffic is
>generated.  Thus, if M sends 50 messages through R and sees 6 outgoing
>messages going to remailers C, D, and D, he will now know which
>messages correspond to the message that A send through.

This type of attack is why "reply-block" schemes are fundamentally flawed.
Any such scheme gives an attacker (a traffic analyst) a wedge with which to
deduce mappings. It is a kind of "chosen plaintext" attack (loosely
speaking). Or a "forcing attack." Maybe a "flooding attack" is as good a
name as any. One floods the reply block and simply watches where the water

(If there were more academics in the crypto community looking at digital
mix issues, there would likely be clever names for the various attacks.)

Several folks on this list, including (from memory), Scott Collins, Wei
Dai, Hal Finney, myself, and others, have noted this weakness over the

Note that merely fiddling around with probabilities of transmission, such
as described above, will not be enough. This just adds a layer of noise,
which will disappear under a correlation analysis.

(For newcomers, there are interesting parallels between statistical
analysis of ciphers and similar analysis of remailer networks. And lots of
statistical tools can be used to deduce likely mappings based on
source/sink correlations, digram analysis, etc. Making a remailer network
robust against such analyses will take a whole more basic thinking. Merely
increasing message volume is not enough. Nor is increasing latency enough.
Generally speaking, of course.)

Instead of reply blocks, I think use of message pools (a la BlackNet) is a
more robust reply method, as it uses "widely-distributed messages" (a la
Usenet newsgroups) to get around the source/sink correlation issue.

--Tim May

We got computers, we're tapping phone lines, I know that that ain't allowed.
Timothy C. May              | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
[email protected]  408-728-0152 | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
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Licensed Ontologist         | black markets, collapse of governments.
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