[tor-dev] Defending against guard discovery attacks by pinning middle nodes

Paul Syverson paul.syverson at nrl.navy.mil
Fri Jul 11 13:51:32 UTC 2014

On Fri, Jul 11, 2014 at 08:31:05AM -0400, Ian Goldberg wrote:
> On Fri, Jul 11, 2014 at 01:44:36PM +0300, George Kadianakis wrote:
> > Hey Nick,
> > 
> > this mail is about the schemes we were discussing during the dev
> > meeting on how to protect HSes against guard discovery attacks (#9001).
> > 
> > I think we have some ideas on how to offer better protection against
> > such attacks, mainly by keeping our middle nodes more static than we
> > do currently.
> > 
> > For example, we could keep our middle nodes for 3-4 days instead of
> > choosing new ones for every circuit. As Roger has suggested, maybe we
> > don't even need to write the static middle nodes on the state file,
> > just use new ones if Tor has restarted.
> > 
> > Keeping middle nodes around for longer will make those attacks much
> > slower (it restricts them to one attack attempt every 3-4 days), but
> > are there any serious negative implications?
> > 
> > For example, if you were unlucky and you picked an evil middle node,
> > and you keep it for 3-4 days, that middle node will always see your
> > traffic coming through your guard (assuming a single guard per
> > client). If we assume you use a non-popular guard node (with only a
> > few clients using it), the middle guard might be able to think "Ah,
> > the circuit that comes from that guard node is always user X" making
> > your circuits a bit linkable from the PoV of your middle node.
> And similarly at the exit node: the exit will now know that circuits
> coming from the same middle are more likely to be the same client.
> That's a little more worrying to me than the above.

Right. Lasse and I suggested and explored the idea of layered guards
when we introduced guards. There are lots of possibilities here. You can
have a set of midguards per guard. Don't remember if it made it into
the paper, but when Roger, Nick, Aaron, and I did the downhill paths
paper we also talked about having a rotation rate for choice of middle
guards that was faster than for guards but not simply a new weighted-random
midnode for each circuit. Gotta run.


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