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towards an eternity service
[the relevance of this to remailer-operators, is that my example
prototype architecture for discussion relies heavily on mixmaster
Ross Anderson's eternity service (postscript paper somewhere on
http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/) is a distributed file system with the
criteria that it should not be possible to delete information from it.
The paper outlines ways that you might go about doing this, and gives
as a design goal that it should not be possible even for concerted
government attacks to remove information from the service. Roughly
the approach described is to have anonymous servers with secret shared
data. The server doesn't know what it is serving, and the server
charges per Mb/year of data storage.
This seems a pretty interesting idea, as it would be a great boon to
free speech to be able to reliably publish information that would
survive attempts to "unpublish" it, which seem to be gaining in
popularity. Notable recent examples of such attacks being
Scientologist attacks on distribution of it's `scriptures', the German
governments banning of nazi revisionist material, and the impending
possibility of a repeat of the CDA at a (US) state level.
I think it is desirable to get something working now, even if it is
far short of the design criteria Anderson describes. A working model
would provide something on which to base discussion of improvements,
and would also be an interesting experiment to see the sorts of uses
such a system would be put to, and the political reaction to it's
The following doesn't depend on, but would be helped by having direct
socket delivery of packets (for performance) in the mixmaster
remailer-net and forward secrecy (for resilence to attack).
The idea comes in two parts, the first part, an anonymous www proxy
using mixmaster to deliver packets, is present to provide cover
traffic for real eternity system requests, the second part describes a
way to acheive an eternity like system with the traffic mixed in with
part 1 traffic, so that the two types of traffic can not be
distinguished by attackers.
1. anonymous www proxies over mixmaster
The stated design goal for this part (it's partly a cover goal, though
useful in its own right) is to ensure that users can access publically
accessible www pages without divulging their identity to the sites
they are accessing, or even to an attacker who is monitoring net
traffic. The user wants to hide which sites they are accessing, and
what information they are accessing. No attempt is made to conceal
the identity of the www sites accessed, a normal URL is used to access
them. This is basically just like www.anonymizer.com, except that
traffic is routed over the mixmaster net.
An http <-> mixmaster interface would be added to the existing
mixmaster. You add a blip in the line for outgoing traffic on your
own machine which converts all outgoing http requests into mixmaster
packets and feeds them into the remailer network. You choose random
chains to get to the http servers. The delivered packet at the exit
remailer node is a new mixmaster packet type, a http request type,
rather than a request to email to an individual, or post to a
newsgroup, it results in an (where possible SSL encrypted) http
request being made to the specified http server.
Also included with the request is a mixmaster reply chain, so that the
exit mixmaster node can route the return the requested www pages, and
SSL session traffic back to the originator.
As you might imagine if this became popular, it could generate a lot
of traffic. For a practical system I think it's inevitable that you'd
need to provide some financial incentive for the mixmaster operators
to subsidize their T3s :-) So you would need to incorporate per hop
payments, for the remailers. This could be a relatively small payment,
but is just there to ensure that they have the money to increase their
bandwidth if the demand requires it.
I think that about explains part 1.
2. an eternity like system built on this system
There are a couple of extra requirements for the eternity system,
firstly that the address of the www site must be concealed also, and
secondly that the data is secret shared across multiple eternity www
The first requirement can be met by the anonymous eternity www sites
publically posting to a newsgroup (via a mixmaster remailer of
course:-) a mixmaster chain pointing at themselves.
To reduce the problem of the flood attack for finding the endpoint of
a chain, firstly some of Peter Allan's suggestions on extra cover
traffic, and on adding extra hops to increase cover traffic should
help, but ultimately this only makes a longer concerted flood
necessary to find the output.
I don't see any easy solution to the flood attack, the only _real_
answer is a DC net. A slightly simpler, but less robust solution
would be to find ways to have fixed levels of traffic between nodes in
the remailer network. Surplus traffic at entry points could be
rejected, so that the sender knows to try another remailer.
The other requirement for eternity is that the data should be secret
If all the eternity www servers publish their reply blocks, the user
sends requests to a number of the eternity servers selected randomly.
Choose the number so that it is likely that you will get the required
k of n shares, given that there are n servers, and they all hold
shares in the data, and that k of n shares are required to recover the
You also need to ensure that the exit mixmaster which is acting as a
http forwarder server can't tell whether it is making an eternity
system request or an anonymous www proxy request. The fact that http
traffic is blindly forwarded means that if the http request is SSL
encrypted the http forwarding mixmaster remailer will not know the
contents of the traffic, and so will not be able to distinguish
traffic type: eternity or anonymous proxy.
As the eternity www servers don't know what the data in the shares
they are holding is, they can't provide the indexing facility
directly. Rather ordinary www pages, and other eternity www pages can
be used to collect links to interesting eternity pages. In
otherwords, it's decentralised, as is the www, and any indexing left
up to the authors of eternity hosted www documents, or anyone elses
indexing to interesting links.
A compromise technology which would greatly simplify access to the
service would be public www proxies or gateways to the eternity
service, so that no new software was required for the client. This
would serve a similar role to WWW based remailers.
The scheme is complex in places but basically requires no new
technology, at least for a crude implementation, without the finer
What can be missed out in a first pass implementation, and deferred
for later incremental improvements:
ecash postage to pay for remailer resources
fixed traffic between remailers
payment for www sites (anonymous www proxy and eternity service)
oblivious transfer to setup shares
so that leaves the following to be done:
blip in the line which routes http requests over mixmaster
mixmaster reply chains for return http traffic
secret sharing of data to send to eternity www servers
periodic posting of mix reply blocks by eternity www servers
public access www proxy, or www-cgi based gateway
exported RSA today? --> http://www.dcs.ex.ac.uk/~aba/rsa/