Fwd: Proposal: Incorporate Unreachable ORs into the Tor Network
robert at roberthogan.net
Mon Mar 24 22:10:44 UTC 2008
On Saturday 22 March 2008 15:13:10 Nick Mathewson wrote:
> On Sat, Mar 22, 2008 at 11:11:12AM +0000, Robert Hogan wrote:
> > I'm not sure how much merit this proposal has, or how serious it's
> > problems are. Does anyone have any thoughts on it? Are the problems
> > I've outlined fatal, or is there a problem with it I've missed? I
> > suspect one or the other.
> Hi, Robert! I think this is definitely a step in the right direction,
> with some tricky issues associated with it. In particular, it
> represents a big deviation from Tor's current clique topology. We
> should definitely drop the clique assumption (for scaling reasons if
> nothing else) at some point, though, and there's no reason it can't be
> Send it to or-dev and let's talk about it there?
Had to scratch my head on what clique topology means but I think I get it: where
every node has to be able to connect to every other in the network. I guess that
does mean a few anonymity properties previously taken for granted on Tor may get
flushed out by this - pretty sure I haven't captured them all.
Are there any better ways of finding out how many servers out there fail to
publish because they can't pass the orport reachability test? The proposal
assumes there are a lot, but maybe there are surprisingly few.
---------- Forwarded Message ----------
Subject: Proposal: Incorporate Unreachable ORs into the Tor Network
Date: Saturday 22 March 2008
From: Robert Hogan <robert at roberthogan.net>
To: or-talk at freehaven.net
I'm not sure how much merit this proposal has, or how serious it's problems are.
Does anyone have any thoughts on it? Are the problems I've outlined fatal, or is
there a problem with it I've missed? I suspect one or the other.
Title: Incorporate Unreachable ORs into the Tor Network
Author: Robert Hogan
Propose a scheme for harnessing the bandwidth of ORs who cannot currently
participate in the Tor network because they can only make outbound
Restrictive local and remote firewalls are preventing many willing
candidates from becoming ORs on the Tor network.These
ORs have a casual interest in joining the network but their operator is not
sufficiently motivated or adept to complete the necessary router or firewall
configuration. The Tor network is losing out on their bandwidth. At the
moment we don't even know how many such 'candidate' ORs there are.
1. Establish how many ORs are unable to qualify for publication because
they cannot establish that their ORPort is reachable.
2. Devise a method for making such ORs available to clients for circuit
building without prejudicing their anonymity.
ORs whose ORPort reachability testing fails a specified number of
consecutive times should:
1. Enlist themselves with the authorities setting a 'Fallback' flag. This
flag indicates that the OR is up and running but cannot connect to
2. Open an orconn with all ORs whose fingerprint begins with the same
byte as their own. The management of this orconn will be transferred
entirely to the OR at the other end.
2. The fallback OR should update it's router status to contain the
'Running' flag if it has managed to open an orconn with 3/4 of the ORs
with an FP beginning with the same byte as its own.
Tor ORs who are contacted by fallback ORs requesting an orconn should:
1. Accept the orconn until they have reached a defined limit of orconn
connections with fallback ORs.
2. Should only accept such orconn requests from listed fallback ORs who
have an FP beginning with the same byte as its own.
Tor clients can include fallback ORs in the network by doing the
1. When building a circuit, observe the fingerprint of each node they
wish to connect to.
2. When randomly selecting a node from the set of all eligible nodes,
add all published, running fallback nodes to the set where the first
byte of the fingerprint matches the previous node in the circuit.
At least some, and possibly all, nodes on the network will have a set
of nodes that only they and a few others can build circuits on.
1. This means that fallback ORs might be unsuitable for use as middlemen
nodes, because if the exit node is the attacker it knows that the
number of nodes that could be the entry guard in the circuit is
reduced to roughly 1/256th of the network, or worse 1/256th of all
nodes listed as Guards. For the same reason, fallback nodes would
appear to be unsuitable for two-hop circuits.
2. This is not a problem if fallback ORs are always exit nodes. If
the fallback OR is an attacker it will not be able to reduce the
set of possible nodes for the entry guard any further than a normal,
Possible Attacks/Open Issues:
1. Gaming Node Selection
Does running a fallback OR customized for a specific set of published ORs
improve an attacker's chances of seeing traffic from that set of published
ORs? Would such a strategy be any more effective than running published
ORs with other 'attractive' properties?
2. DOS Attack
An attacker could prevent all other legitimate fallback ORs with a
given byte-1 in their FP from functioning by running 20 or 30 fallback ORs
and monopolizing all available fallback slots on the published ORs.
This same attacker would then be in a position to monopolize all the
traffic of the fallback ORs on that byte-1 network segment. I'm not sure
what this would allow such an attacker to do.
An observer watching exit traffic from a fallback server will know that the
previous node in the circuit is one of a very small, identifiable
subset of the total ORs in the network. To establish the full path of the
circuit they would only have to watch the exit traffic from the fallback
OR and all the traffic from the 20 or 30 ORs it is likely to be connected
to. This means it is substantially easier to establish all members of a
circuit which has a fallback OR as an exit (sniff and analyse 10-50 (i.e.
1/256 varying) + 1 ORs) rather than a normal published OR (sniff all 2560
or so ORs on the network). The same mechanism that allows the client to
expect a specific fallback OR to be available from a specific published OR
allows an attacker to prepare his ground.
In terms of the resources and access required to monitor 2000 to 3000
nodes, the effort of the adversary is not significantly diminished when he
is only interested in 20 or 30. It is hard to see how an adversary who can
obtain access to a randomly selected portion of the Tor network would face
any new or qualitatively different obstacles in attempting to access much
of the rest of it.
The number of ORs this proposal would add to the Tor network is not known.
This is because there is no mechanism at present for recording unsuccessful
attempts to become an OR. If the proposal is considered promising it may be
worthwhile to issue an alpha series release where candidate ORs post a
primitive fallback descriptor to the authority directories. This fallback
descriptor would not contain any other flag that would make it eligible for
selection by clients. It would act solely as a means of sizing the number of
Tor instances that try and fail to become ORs.
The upper limit on the number of orconns from fallback ORs a normal,
published OR should be willing to accept is an open question. Is one
hundred, mostly idle, such orconns too onerous?
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