[ExI] possible scheme for privacy

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Wed Jul 23 06:23:04 UTC 2014

On Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 9:21 AM, Harvey Newstrom <mail at harveynewstrom.com>

> On Monday, July 21, 2014 12:09 AM, Rafal Smigrodzki wrote,
> > On Sun, Jul 20, 2014 at 12:52 PM, Harvey Newstrom wrote:
> > > In TOR, a far-reaching entity can monitor a very large number of ISPs
> > > and exit nodes to match traffic patterns between the sender (real IP
> and
> > > encrypted message) and the TOR exit node (fake IP and unencrypted
> > > message) to link the real IP with the unencrypted message.  Although
> TOR is
> > > generally safe, there is no way to prevent a big enough monitoring
> system
> > > from catching everything.
> > > (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tor_(anonymity_network)#cite_note
> > > -torproject-fail-both-ends-32)
> >
> > ### How about using a continuous data stream from all users to cover up
> > actual usage pattern? If I am sending and receiving an encrypted one-time
> > pad-randomized 1 kb/s 24/7, I can send and receive an arbitrary number of
> > text messages without an adversary being able to determine when or what I
> > send to or from whom, unless they have the one time pad and full access
> to
> > the stream of data and access to the nodes routing my data stream, or
> they
> > have hardware access on my end (i.e. they own me anyway).
> In theory, yes, this would be the perfect answer.  However, the devil is
> in the details, as usual.
> The problem is the way applications, operating systems, and routers
> fragment packets and send them.  Even if all users send identical messages
> at identical times, their different environments will fragment them into a
> different number of packets, and buffer them into different timing
> patterns.  So the fingerprint of the traffic analysis would still be
> variable between different users doing the exact same thing.
> And it's more than just the intended traffic that needs to be made
> uniform.  The underlying TCP/IP stack on the operating systems and routers
> will respond differently to lost packets, resend requests, time-out
> duration, dynamic window sizes for throughput, optimizing throughput
> speeds, buffer sizes and related delays, etc.  To make the traffic look
> identical, all users would have to use the exact same hardware, software,
> operating systems, TCP/IP stacks, patching levels, router brands,
> memory/disk sizes and delays, number of hops in their local network, and
> constant unchanging traffic loads on their local networks.  To be even more
> extreme, there could be differing timing delays or error rates based on
> what brand Ethernet cables they use and how far they are from the
> electrical wires in each home.  There would be no way to make everything
> exactly identical.
> Beyond the above items that might be within the user's control, there is
> no way all users could obtain the same distance/delay to their local ISP,
> or have all ISPs using the same exact same hardware, software, operating
> systems, TCP/IP stacks, patching levels, router brands, memory/disk sizes
> and delays, number of hops in their local network, and constant unchanging
> traffic loads on their metropolitan area networks.  The extremely complex
> chain of connectivity between each user and their ISP will add traffic
> analysis signatures unique to that user, but outside their control,
> somewhere between their location and their ISP.
> At first glance, this seems unlikely to be doable by individual users.
>  Maybe if a whole apartment building or neighborhood block merged their
> traffic and tunneled it through a shared VPN, they might be able to mask
> individual differences.  But then they would be traceable back to that
> local group.  As long as each person has an individual data stream to their
> ISP, they will probably have unique traffic analysis signatures.
> --
> Harvey Newstrom   www.HarveyNewstrom.com
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Rafal Smigrodzki, MD-PhD
Senior Scientist,
Gencia Corporation
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