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Re: Random chaff [was: more work for Grobbages]

On Wed, Sep 23, 2009 at 10:01:07AM -0400, Brian Mearns wrote:
> So, if I understand this correctly, a correlation attack works (on a
> very basic level) by noticing that Alice sent a message to Bob (a
> known Tor node) at time X, and Dave (another known Tor node) sent a
> message to Wally (a web server) at time X+e, where e is about how long
> we would expect it to take for the onion to be routed. Is that more or
> less the idea?

Yes. But packet counting can also play a role. Cf, 
"Passive Attack Analysis for Connection-Based Anonymity Systems"
at http://freehaven.net/anonbib/index.html#SS03

> It seems like determining e (time to route the packet) with any degree
> of precision would be pretty difficult, so is this really a big
> problem? (or is that still being debated?) 

It's not. Cf. my "Locating Hidden Servers"
wherein we had zero false positives on any timing attacks conducted
in finding hidden services, which generally was very quick.
(That such attacks existed were known for years. That they were not
just possible but so fast and effective using merely a single
node in the network was the reason that guard nodes were introduced
into the Tor network.)

And building on that see, "Low-Resource Routing Attacks Against Tor"
where timing attacks with epsilon false positives
were based simply on circuit setup and were shown on general
Tor circuits, not just for hidden services.

> On the other hand, if an attacker could monitor a good number of
> nodes, wouldn't it be fairly easy to determine each three-node
> circuit segment (like Alice, to Bob, to Charlie) and trace the whole
> thing end-to-end? It seems like this could be defeated with a more
> intelligent type of "chaff", where the receiving relay generates N
> random dummy onions (with an appreciable circuit length) for each
> onion it receives, and then sends all N+1 into the network in a
> random order.

There's been a lot of research on this. I think Nick pointed at
some. Cf. the anonbib.
Research against timing attacks continues. (I'm doing some myself.)
But so far, any "chaff" strategy in the literature is both too
expensive and not at all effective against active attacks on
general low-latency systems for wide use, such as Tor.