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Combining BitTorrent With Darknets For P2P Privacy 325

Posted by kdawson
from the your-move dept.
CSEMike writes "Currently popular peer-to-peer networks suffer from a lack of privacy. For applications like BitTorrent or Gnutella, sharing a file means exposing your behavior to anyone interested in monitoring it. OneSwarm is a new file sharing application developed by researchers at the University of Washington that improves privacy in peer-to-peer networks. Instead of communicating directly, sharing in OneSwarm is friend-to-friend; senders and receivers exchange data using multiple intermediaries in an overlay mesh. OneSwarm is built on (and backwards compatible with) BitTorrent, but includes numerous extensions to improve privacy while providing good performance: point-to-point encryption using SSL, source-address rewriting, and multi-path and multi-source downloading. Clients and source are available for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows."
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Combining BitTorrent With Darknets For P2P Privacy

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  • About time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Keeper Of Keys (928206) on Monday February 23, 2009 @06:09PM (#26963301) Homepage

    The need for this has been brewing for a while. Hope it does what it says on the tin.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2009 @06:40PM (#26963653)

      There have been BitTorrent clients for I2P for years now. They're useless, largely, because anonymous networks are nightmarishly slow and unreliable, and very, very few people bother to upload anything interesting (at least in my opinion).

      Before anyone accuses me of trolling, I've been using TOR off and on at home since 2005, and I've experimented with I2P for about 6 months in the wake of whistleblowing of the NSA wiretapping program. They're horrible, frankly, and I only put up with TOR still out of sheer cussedness. TOR at least lets you get content from the outside world; I2P is darknet-only, and darknet-only content isn't that exciting.

      In fact, it's frankly dull as hell -- mostly political rants and porn (often of the less than legal variety). Sure, that could theoretically be overcome, but it won't, because performance is so bad that no one uses them but people stubbornly making a political point or people with downright criminal tastes (like the child porn freaks that seem to dominate the core.onion message boards). Mainstream consumers want convenience, and darknets don't provide it.

      The performance is terrible because every download on a darknet is limited by the upstream bandwidth of the worst of your peers -- each of which is generally passing through streams from several other peers at the same time. Think about this. Think of the common 128 Kbps cap on most residential DSL or cable. And this is when you don't have unreliable or malicious peers.

      So, frankly, who cares? I pirate copyrighted material because it's convenient and it lets me intelligently spend my money only on things I've vetted first -- spending my money only on things that have merit. Darknet torrenting is simply NOT convenient, and I simply wouldn't bother if it truly became necessary.

      I like the concept of TOR and darknets because they provide an important technological counterbalance to tyranny, but I seriously doubt that they could survive as a useful tool for issues less relevant that free speech and survival, like wanting to get movies for free.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CarpetShark (865376)

        In fact, it's frankly dull as hell -- mostly political rants and porn

        Which is largely how the web was, before (non-porn) people realised they could make money on that network.

      • by ultranova (717540) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @07:33AM (#26968177)

        There have been BitTorrent clients for I2P for years now. They're useless, largely, because anonymous networks are nightmarishly slow and unreliable, and very, very few people bother to upload anything interesting (at least in my opinion).

        Ironically enough, Freenet is actually pretty fast nowadays. Still nowhere near BitTorrent, but automatically dividing each file into multiple pieces and the mechanism which causes each piece to become hosted in more peers the more it is accessed results in automatic load-balancing and a torrent-like effect. It's certainly much faster than Tor, and not subject to DoS attacks.

        Before anyone accuses me of trolling, I've been using TOR off and on at home since 2005, and I've experimented with I2P for about 6 months in the wake of whistleblowing of the NSA wiretapping program.

        Tor isn't a darknet. It's an anonymizer. The fact that you're running a Tor node is not hidden; only what you're doing with it is. Even then there's a simple way of locating hidden services: simply correlate the uptimes of the server in question with the uptimes of Tor nodes.

        Freenet doesn't have that problem, since accessing inserted content doesn't require contacting the node that inserted it; however, on-demand insert by Frost might cause a vulnerability, if the attacker controls a node adjacent to yours, since they can then see that a disproportionate amount of pieces for that file are coming from your node. Premix routing should fix that once implemented.

    • Not a new idea (Score:5, Informative)

      by Burz (138833) on Monday February 23, 2009 @06:58PM (#26963807) Journal

      Try the following:

      I2P net [i2p2.de]
      MUTE/ Kommute [sourceforge.net]/ Ants/ Dargens
      Alliancep2p.com
      Filetopia.org
      GNUNet
      Rodi
      Emscher ...and probably more.

      Some of these like I2P use bittorrent over their anonymized network (a BT client is built into I2P but you can use some others... Note that Azureus aka Vuze has I2P support built-in!)

      • by Burz (138833) on Monday February 23, 2009 @07:31PM (#26964149) Journal

        OneSwarm seems to have a lot more polish than the P2P networks I listed: In-browser previews, codec translation of media files, integration with GoogleTalk, etc.

        The basic transfer functionality appears to be similar although based on the invite-only darknet idea. Personally, I do not think these darknets offer much advantage, as the other P2Ps (and also Tor) offer anonymity by maximizing the number of participating nodes... which provides resistance to authorities trying to social-engineer and recruit their way into smaller friend-based networks.

      • All very blah. Check out some screenshots [oneswarm.org] of OneSwarm. Slick! Plus you can access the web interface remotely, and play video and audio files from the network directly in the web interface. And you can exchange keys with trusted friends automatically via Google Talk, and there's a gmail-esque friends request interface. The coolest thing though is the fine tuned control you have over distribution.. you can control which friends and which groups you allow which shares to route through.
  • Hmmm.

    So how long before the **AA bury this is a mass of litigation?

    Though the main advantage of this system is that you can limit the access to a selected list of identities so this to my mind becomes more like a private group.

    But at some point you have to grant access to people or you will have no audience, and I have often thought that private groups are like encrypted networks - they only raise the suspicion you have something to hide.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
      All the more reason to get the darknet up and running before it disappears.

      Once the source code is out there, it'd be impossible to stop. Let's hope they post it instead of making you mail in requesting it.
      • Once the source code is out there, it'd be impossible to stop. Let's hope they post it instead of making you mail in requesting it.

        Well, you could always mail in and request the source and then post it, maybe on sourceforge? It is open source, right?

      • Re:Hmmm. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Brian Gordon (987471) on Monday February 23, 2009 @07:26PM (#26964089)
        If nobody's out there promoting it with a website and support and a download link, few people will participate and it will slowly die.

        You'd need kind of a large critical mass before the network can sustain its growth just by nodes emailing friends the source. A lot more than just "up and running".
        • If nobody's out there promoting it with a website and support and a download link, few people will participate and it will slowly die.

          Just like Gnutella. The "offical" client was up for one day in 2000 before being taken down, and it's still one of the top (if not the top) peer to peer protocols today.

          • Good point, but I have to point out that interest in Gnutella was massive, while fewer people are interested in the inconvenience, high latency, and very low bandwidth of this kind of darknet.
  • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Monday February 23, 2009 @06:16PM (#26963399)
    "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."
    - John Gilmore [toad.com], Co-Founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation [eff.org]
  • nice to see some NSF funds going to good use.

  • Friends? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by honestmonkey (819408) on Monday February 23, 2009 @06:22PM (#26963461) Journal
    One problem from the demo seems to be that you need to have friends. I don't know anyone that has the por^h^h^h files that I want already.
    • But maybe you know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone who has the files you want? (assuming an average of 10 peers each, that would be anyone of 10,000 people)

      • Hm, that's assuming no overlap, so probably less. :P

      • by tepples (727027)

        But maybe you know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone who has the files you want?

        But how would I find out whether or not this is the case? I don't even know anybody who uses the existing darknet software. People liked to complain about this back when Orkut and Gmail were still invite-only.

    • Trust no one (Score:4, Insightful)

      by westlake (615356) on Monday February 23, 2009 @07:42PM (#26964243)
      One problem from the demo seems to be that you need to have friends.

      You'll find plenty of "friends" on the net willing to trade in porn - or anything else, for that matter.

      The question is, who do you trust?

      In the case of OneSwarm ...an adversary would be able to correlate the increase in traffic between sender and receiver along an overlay path. FAQ [washington.edu]

      I can't quite shake the notion that a "web of trust" is inherently fragile.

      That as they scale upward and are increasingly interwoven there will be a breach, a tear - that will unravel very quickly.

  • Please explain.

    If "Joe" in Virginia and "Mike" in California each have a copy of Hannah Montana's latest episode, I use Utorrent to directly connect to their IP address and start downloading pieces. How does OneSwarm work differently to get this video over to my machine?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
      It works by you being friends with Joe and Mike. They in turn are friends with Rachel and Simon, Brad, Jamie, and Robert respectively. That's now seven people to download from. Those 5 people have more friends, maybe with the file, maybe not, but THEIR friends might have it...

      Plus, because it's not an open network, the trust between peers is higher. It will always be a "friend of a friend" that you're downloading from.

      We just need to make sure nobody is friends with the MAFIAA.
      • by complete loony (663508) <Jeremy.Lakeman@gma i l . c om> on Monday February 23, 2009 @08:39PM (#26964645)

        But even if somebody is friends with the MAFIAA, that doesn't mean they can work out who you are. If the protocol is built correctly, (no I'm not going to read it) you would have to compromise every relationship between sender and receiver to work out who anybody else really is.

        Nodes on this network know their immediate neighbors (friends), and pass messages around, but don't necessarily know anything about who the end points are.

    • It encrypts the communication so that "Bob" at the RIAA can't see what you're copying by looking at network packets.

      At least that's what the summary says to me.

    • by Fry-kun (619632)

      More than likely, it hides Joe's and Mike's IP addresses in the OneSwarm database - you have to be a friend of someone who has it to actually download a copy. Similar to friend invites on Demonoid (need a friend who's already a member to get an account and start downloading) - except this is decentralized.

      • by tepples (727027)

        you have to be a friend of someone who has it to actually download a copy. Similar to friend invites on Demonoid (need a friend who's already a member to get an account and start downloading)

        Then what are the steps to gain a friend who's already a member?

    • by InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) on Monday February 23, 2009 @06:39PM (#26963633)

      Please explain.

      If "Joe" in Virginia and "Mike" in California each have a copy of The Big Bang Theory's latest episode, I use Utorrent to directly connect to their IP address and start downloading pieces. How does OneSwarm work differently to get this video over to my machine?

      There, saved you from ridicule. You owe me!

    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @02:39AM (#26966727) Journal

      The entire idea of the so called darknet originated in the minds of kiddies who are full of goverment conspiracies but lack the intelligence to truly think about what this means.

      Your ISP KNOWS!

      Your ISP knows EVERYTHING!

      Your darknet lights the ISP up like a christmas tree!

      Darknets only work when the ISP doesn't care to monitor and report the traffic that crosses its routers and if they don't monitor/report the traffic then you don't need a darknet.

      A darknet is often suggested as a solution of getting around opressive regimes. But the problem is that the kiddies thinking about it have grown up in free countries and just don't get how effective oppression can be. Oh we are not talking the Chinese here or even the RIAA or other such amateurs but the north-korean goverment.

      How is your darknet going to work if ALL internet access is monitored. Send of a packet on an unknown port to an unknown destination and they don't need to decrypt it, you will tell them what was in it because there is only so much the human body can endure.

      To make it understandable, imagine you invented an absolutely 100% effective way to hide content in a telegraph message. You could send any message of any length and embed you own content within it and nobody would ever know. This would get you around any goverment trying to stop you from sending said message right?

      If you say YES, then you are an idiot. All they got to do is stop you from using the telegraph itself. Put an agent in the office and simply monitor who uses the machine.

      If the RIAA and the likes get their way then sending ANY info via your ISP that they cannot read as harmless, then you can't use a darknet because a darknet by its nature shows up as unknown and therefor harmfull to the powers that be.

      If the teachers forbids you to talk in the class room then the students can come up with the the fanciest unknown spoken language they wish, but they still can't talk in class because the act of using your voice itself is what is forbidden, not the language itself.

      So, if you and a friend agree to use an unknown network type that crosses an ISP and that ISP is monitoring its own routers then that traffic will show up and by the nature of being unknown will send up a red flag. Only when your ISP doesn't care can you use it and as I already said, when it doesn't care, you don't need it.

      The only think darknets protect against is OTHERS outside your network connect from knowing about it. I can easily see whoever else is using the torrent I am downloading because this information is public. I can't see the users of your site however. So it is only simple defence against a very primitive form of snooping. But don't worry, the RIAA and the likes are already well ahead of that and want the ISP's, who by their nature are part of EVERY network connection you make to monitor for them.

      Read up on freenet and its darknet dreams. It is a laugh. They dream of being the tool to allow sensitive information to get out of places like North Korea undetected when the very act of sending information out of North Korea over any non-approved and monitored method is enough to get you killed.

      Or to give the final anology, I don't need to know where the messenger crossing the border has hidden the secret message or the code to read it on his body if I simply shoot everyone crossing the border.

  • I was reading about TorrentPrivacy [torrentprivacy.com] last week, and it sounded nice, except the site gave me a heavy "fishy" vibe, and they charge a fee for their service.

    I'm reading up on OneSwarm, but I don't know enough about the technology to know if this works the same way, or better than TP. Any thoughts?

    • by Burz (138833)

      I believe TP is a simply proxy or VPN service. If TP is forced to rat on you by the government, they could conceivably do so by simply starting to log IP data.

      OneSwarm is like TOR or I2P in that the needed IP information is beyond the reach of any one entity. Its temporarily distributed through the swarm just long enough to make transfers possible. You would have to own a large chunk of the machines in a swarm to be able to connect/prosecute a user with a particular file or activity.

      • by AHuxley (892839)
        Say a group of top US telcos all connected to the NSA?
        Would that be a large chunk of the machines?
        Always assume your US ISP is linked to the NSA
        ie point to point logs of every IP session on US networks.
        If the NSA could do it back in the day, so can the feds 'today'.
        Or a company trying to play nice with the feds.
  • How about... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Rhabarber (1020311)
    freenet [slashdot.org] (there is a dark net mode since version 7).

    I remember people arguing dark mode being an anonymity thread itself. I case you computer is seized you and your 'friends' are immediately identified as part the of same conspirative group (based on client's friend list). Might rather be a problem in totalitarian systems where being suspicious is enough to face personal detriment (no pun intended).
    • by evanbd (210358)

      That's not darknets being a threat; that's darknets being a less than 100% perfect solution. The alternative is a situation where your computer still has a list of other users (because you do have to connect to someone at some point), and where that list can be retrieved *without* the rubber-hose cryptography. In non-darknet networks like Bittorrent or opennet mode Freenet or any conventional P2P, the bad guys can generate a list of users just by sending queries to the network or central server.

      Calling da

  • Yay!!! (Score:2, Flamebait)

    Had to happen eventually. But it would be nice if there were C-based clients rather than Java. Java is cool, but it is also slow.

    Still, this is just the first of what one can hope will be many. Props for doing it first.
    • by thermian (1267986)

      Had to happen eventually. But it would be nice if there were C-based clients rather than Java. Java is cool, but it is also slow.

      Java is slower than C, yes, but having used it recently for the first time on some commercial work, I have to say that speed concerns aside, Java is vastly better in terms of additional libraries, ease of use, and general 'getting things done faster'.

      With multi core software being the way forward, it also has the edge because its easier to paralellise than C/C++ (well ok, debatable, but in my experience its easier and involves less dev time), and the increase in cores mean the old concerns about speed aren'

      • Preaching to the choir. Yes, even though I chide Java for being slow my language of choice is Ruby, which is even slower. For most of my purposes, though, it is still the best.
    • by Burz (138833)

      Actually, Java isn't slow at all compared to other high level languages. It is very fast.

      Sometimes I wonder why you C trolls don't just switch to assembler. ... Or why you're so quiet whenever (rather slow) PHP is discussed ... or .NET for that matter.

      Granted, Java was too much overhead on 1998 PCs (and those painful memories of slowness).. but its time to move on newer perspectives dear.

  • A simple question from a noob in the area:

    Why not just peer-to-peer encrypt communication between BitTorrent nodes on the network? With keys that are distributed privately. Would that not completely hide the BitTorrent traffic making it impossible to eavesdrop at? If I sit by a router and see it transfer a blob of something that does not resemble anything else but an encrypted stream of something, I only have one choice - decrypt it first to see if the traffic belongs to something I consider illegal. But th

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2009 @07:38PM (#26964203)

      Because the investigators don't eavesdrop on your connections. They come into the network as a peer and ask your client to send them chunks of whatever file you are currently sharing. It's very easy for them to do:

      1. Search torrent site for popular movie/artist name
      2. Download torrent
      3. Connect to tracker, get peer IP addresses
      4. Connect to peers, ask for parts of the file
      5. File a John Doe lawsuit and subpoena ISPs for customer details

      Encryption occurs between peers - so your ISP can't decode the traffic, but the investigator can, because it is a peer.

    • But what happens when an investigator hired by a movie studio joins the swarm? How do you decide who gets a key and gets to participate in the network?
  • Dumb (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sexconker (1179573) on Monday February 23, 2009 @07:20PM (#26964053)

    So a "darknet" is a private (trust-based) network.

    You know, like a regular network or VPN.

    Oh, and you want to use your darknet for P2P, so you want it to be popular? Then just chain your trust so friends of friends of friends can join in. They're trustworthy, right?

    This is completely stupid.
    You can't establish a successful P2P network without a large number of users to supply bandwidth and content.
    You can't get a large number of users without making it easy to join.
    You can't make it easy to join while keeping up a level of trust. If Joe Schmo from the internet can get on, then Joe Schmo from the RIAA can too.
    You can't anonymize or encrypt traffic while staying decentralized. To anonymize traffic you need a central server where all traffic is routed through, or you need to route through other users and maintain some meta data centrally. If you encrypt traffic, you'll need to decrypt it, and then it becomes a key sharing problem.

    It all boils down to keeping the MAFIAA out. No one can ever explain how their various "trust" mechanisms ensure that the MAFIAA stays out (because they can't).
    No one ever explains what happens when the trust is broken (the whole net instantly becomes untrustworthy).
    No one ever explains how encryption helps untrusted connections (it doesn't), or why it is even necessary for trusted connections (well, I'll accept this since nowadays everyone is illegally snooping in on every bit of data it seems.)

    • by argent (18001)

      You don't know who you're getting the files from, so neither does Joe Schmo from the RIAA.

      You don't know who's getting your files, so neither does Joe Schmo from the RIAA.

      OneSwarm uses the "communist cell" model, where nobody knows anyone except their immediate neighbors, *and* they don't know who's requested or provided any file that's going through their node.

      And at the top level of the collective are a bunch of drummers in nanobar tunnels under Puget Sound... oh, sorry, I'm channeling Neil Stephenson aga

    • Re:Dumb (Score:5, Informative)

      by evanbd (210358) on Monday February 23, 2009 @08:55PM (#26964767)

      Freenet [freenetproject.org] has an answer to the trust chaining problem. Each user (when in darknet mode, anyway -- there's also a non-darknet option) only talks to their friends. Trust is not transitory; if I want data you have, it has to get routed over trusted links. Obviously there is a latency and bandwidth penalty for this, but it's probably smaller than you'd think -- the network topology is well behaved, so playing 6 degrees of separation works fairly well. If someone screws up and lets the MAFIAA on, then I don't care -- it's only a problem for the people who trusted them. The darknet style links compartmentalize the damage. (It's actually even better than that, thanks to plausible deniability arguments I won't get into, as long as they only have a limited number of compromised nodes.)

      Of course, the bootstrapping problem -- you need users to get content, and you need content to attract users -- is very real. If there are easy magic solutions, I haven't heard of them, and Freenet doesn't have them. It's still a small niche network, with a limited though nonzero amount of content.

      If you're curious about how attacks work in the context of a strong darknet like Freenet, I suggest you ask around on the irc channel / mailing lists. Yes, there are attacks that will work -- the Freenet authors won't try to pretend otherwise. What Freenet *does* do is make those attacks very difficult with only comparatively modest assumptions about trust.

      • Re:Dumb (Score:4, Insightful)

        by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @05:14AM (#26967463) Homepage

        Freenet has an answer to the trust chaining problem.

        I wouldn't call it an 'answer', because it is complete non-functional in practice, there are just way to few people in the world who have enough trustworthy friends who also run freenet to make it function and for those that have sneakernet likely runs a hell of a lot better. The whole problem with darknet is that it pretty much completly breaks apart when you add an untrusted friend, so you have to be really careful with whom you add, which in turn makes it impossible to get enough people.

    • by Zironic (1112127)

      You might want to actually read the paper before you debunk it.

  • Not *that* new. (Score:2, Interesting)

    Purely friend 2 friend based networks seem of quite limited use (come on, who knows anyone on the Internet really?).

    There are implementations of Pseudonymous P2P clients like GNUnet which are much less trust reliant (more usable and robust). The only problem is, that they are somewhat alpha state and quite cumbersome to set up, and there are not too much files there. There are also a bunch of other approaches (here is a list of software: http://tinyurl.com/cvrvg7 [tinyurl.com] )

    Problem is, the *AA will probably run t
  • by Eil (82413) on Monday February 23, 2009 @07:42PM (#26964241) Homepage Journal

    ...was that of a few University of Washington researchers being escorted into the back of an unmarked van.

  • by EverStoned (620906) on Monday February 23, 2009 @08:21PM (#26964505) Homepage
    I'm a lead dev on a similar project called Anomos [anomos.info], which provides anonymous and encrypted BitTorrent without requiring the slow Friend To Friend system that this uses. OneSwarm is a cool project, but we have some advantages over this (although I'm sure they have advantages over us as well.) We're a funded project as well. If you're interested in this type of thing, you might wanna take a look at our project as well. (Also check out i2pSnark!) Ultimately (perhaps by the end of this summer), I'd like to see all of these approaches under a single roof.
  • Oooookay? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by IonOtter (629215) on Monday February 23, 2009 @08:26PM (#26964535) Homepage

    Read the article, watched the video.

    Very pretty, very nice, very private IF you have someone on the other end that you "trust". Gosh! This is just like IRC back in 1994 when you'd go begging for FSP logins to trade, and had to rely on some snot-nosed brat to deign to lower their [33+ selves enough to throw you a bone.

    Please. *clicks on enable encrypted torrents only* There. Fixed. Goodnight.

  • Traffic spike. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @06:29AM (#26967845)

    A major problem with this and all 'anonymous' file sharing things is the traffic! If you go through 3 nodes, that means 4x as much traffic as if you just went straight peer to peer. That means -you- need to use your machine for that much traffic, too, to help the rest of the network.

    I don't know about you, but I don't feel like waiting 4x as long for my transfers.

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