[tor-dev] Partitioning Attacks on Prop250 (Re: Draft Proposal: Random Number Generation During Tor Voting)

David Stainton dstainton415 at gmail.com
Wed Sep 9 22:25:44 UTC 2015

Yes and if we see more than 1 commitment value from the same authority
then it makes sense to revote with the remaining n-1 directory
authorities so that the attacker doesn't get a choice of the 9 vote
result versus the 8 vote result... but instead the attacker can chose
between the 9 vote result and some unknown future 8 vote result.

On Wed, Sep 9, 2015 at 11:44 PM, s7r <s7r at sky-ip.org> wrote:
> Hash: SHA256
> Hi,
> I think we can mitigate this by implementing a p2p-like distribution
> system for the commitment values between the directory authorities.
> When an authority sends to all other authorities its commitment /
> reveal value, it also sends the commitment / reveal values of the
> other authorities it knows about (including their cryptographic
> signatures).
> If we see more than 1 commitment value from the same authority (by
> verifying the signature of course) we just trigger a warning somehow
> in consensus health and build a consensus without the commitment of
> that authority. We just mark it as blank, or behave like that
> authority didn't send a commitment value at all, to any authority or
> group of authorities. At this moment the worst an evil authority could
> do is throw away its right to vote for the shared randomness.
> This way we cannot fail to create a consensus document at 12:00 UTC
> and we also cannot have 2 simultaneously valid consensus documents
> with different shared randomness value.
> On 9/9/2015 11:21 PM, George Kadianakis wrote:
>> Hello,
>> I have mixed feelings about this shared-rand-conflict mechanism.
>> It indeed seems to solve a problem, but not the nasty one. And it's
>> not trivial to implement.
>> [ Let's say we have 9 dirauths. One of them is evil. Majority needs
>> 5 dirauths in this case. For a consensus to be considered valid, it
>> needs 5 dirauth signatures. ]
>> I think the attacker we are worrying about here is the one that
>> during the Commitment Phase attempts to partition the dirauths in
>> two sets (4 auths in group A, and 4 auths in group B). To achieve
>> that the attacker sends a vote with commitment c_1 to group A, and
>> a different vote with commitment c_2 to group B.
>> Then in the next commitment round the attacker does the same, and
>> now the two groups both think they have majority (group A has 4
>> auths and the attacker, group B the same). So they both update
>> their internal state accordingly.
>> The attacker can keep on doing the same, and when the Commitment
>> Phase is over he will have persuaded both groups that they have the
>> right commitment, if he keeps on lying during the Reveal Phase as
>> well (by sending the right reveal value to the two groups) he could
>> eventually succeed in making two different consensuses with two
>> different shared random values.
>> Or an alternative ending scenario would be that the attacker
>> chooses to not publish any consensus signatures during the last
>> round of the protocol, and then neither of the groups achieves
>> enough signatures to make a valid consensus. And consensus at
>> 12:00UTC fails, and no shared random for today.
>> ---
>> So OK these are two reasonable attacks that shared-rand-conflict
>> can address. The attacks are very noisy and detectable but they
>> work. Why am I saying that shared-rand-conflcit does not mitigate
>> everything?
>> It's because IIUC the attacker could also do the same attacks by
>> following the protocol normally and then doing the partitioning
>> attack during the last rounds of the _Reveal Phase_. In this case,
>> the attacker partitions the dirauths into two groups by sending a
>> reveal value to group A, and omitting it to group B. For this to
>> work you don't need to advertise different commitments.
>> Again this way the result is that the attacker can get two
>> consensuses with a different shared random value in each. One
>> consensus will have a shared random value including the attacker's
>> reveal value, and the other will have a shared random value without
>> it. Alternatively, the attacker can sabotage the consensus creation
>> by not publishing consensus signatures.
>> I feel that this attack during the Reveal Phase is harder to detect
>> and more deniable.
>> So what can we do?
>> ---
>> An alternative protection we could do about these attacks is to
>> take this to the consensus-health layer. We need to make a few
>> detection scripts that will notify us if any of these attacks
>> happen. We don't need shared-rand-conflict for this.
>> Here are some detections that need to happen:
>> 1) To detect attacks during the Commitment Phase, consensus-health
>> should warn if it sees two votes having different commitment values
>> from one auth.
>> 2) To detect attacks during the Reveal Phase, consensus-health
>> should warn if it sees two votes where one includes a reveal value,
>> and the other one doesn't. This is a sign of a partioning attack,
>> or some severe misconfiguration/bug.
>> 3) Of course, consensus-health should go nuts if we don't manage to
>> create a 12:00UTC consensus. Don't forget that an attacker that
>> wants to hijack the HSDir hash ring, needs to sabotage the
>> consensus like 5 days in a row to get the HSDir flag, so this
>> should raise some alarms.
>> It would also be useful if consensus-health fetched all the votes
>> *seen* by an authority, and not just the one it publishes. This way
>> we can find attacks where the attacker sends different votes to
>> different honest auths. We can fetch the alien votes seen by an
>> authority using the URL tor/status-vote/next/<fp>.z .
>> ---
>> Finally, regardless of whether we do shared-rand-conflict or not, I
>> think I like the idea of using signatures for commitments. This
>> way, a commitment is a standalone proof that it comes from a
>> specific authority and a specific timestamp, without requiring the
>> whole vote signature. This is required to do shared-rand-conflict
>> and might be useful in any case in the future.
>> I made a patch that implements this for prop250 at:
>> https://gitweb.torproject.org/user/asn/torspec.git/commit/?h=prop250-nosrdoc-sigs&id=80ed03b4ac40db62582b4af2e3c5c7702c453055
>>  s7r told me that he likes the signature approach, and that's also
>> what Nick did in his small proposal. Please let me know if you
>> think this is overengineering! :)
>> ---
>> Looking forward to your thoughts!
>> These two things seem to be the main open attacks against prop250.
>> They don't seem particularly threatening because they are all
>> detectable, but we should make sure we are not forgetting
>> anything.
>> See you around!
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