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HORNET: high-speed anonymity network

If you like TOR, but you think it's too sluggish to be a reliable option to counter surveillance, this innovation may speed things up.

Five researchers just published a paper presenting a new network called HORNET: High-speed Onion Routing at the Network Layer.

This new network design would allow much faster processing of the anonymous traffic between nodes (the computers in the network) than TOR. Indeed, they measured a processing speed 'up to 93.5 Gb/s on a 120 Gb/s software router.'

HORNET would be a TOR-like network on steroids, as the core architecture is similar: relay nodes in several onion layers that mix your traffic, while ensuring an end-to-end encryption.

TOR is known for its relatively slow speed, and HORNET aims to fix that by focusing on scalability and efficiency.

HORNET uses only symmetric cryptography when forwarding traffic. But the most notable difference between HORNET and TOR is that HORNET operates at the network layer, just like a VPN, whereas TOR is like a proxy that you have to configure for every app you want to anonymize.

HORNET is designed to:

  1. Maintain a path information integrity and secrecy, that is to say, making impossible for an attacker to modify a packet header to change path without detection. The hacker would also be unable to know how packets are forwarded between nodes, their positions, or even the number of hops the packets have to go through.
  2. Eliminating cross-link identification: an attacker wouldn't be able to correlate two or more packets on eavesdropped network links.
  3. Make sessions unlinkable: an attacker would be unable to link packets from different sessions, even if these packets are exchanged between the same sources and destinations during different sessions.
  4. Payload secrecy and end-to-end integrity. If your computer hasn't been compromised through a virus or an exploit, a hacker wouldn't learn anything about the data exchanged on the HORNET except for the length and timing of sequences of packets.

Hornet has not yet been peer-reviewed, even though in the research world this process is vital. Indeed, only the researchers who wrote this paper could test this new technology.

Combining anonymity and performance is one the hardest security problems to get right. And if HORNET is deemed secure by reviews, it could be a future option to preserve your anonymity online.

Source: arXiv.org