[tor-dev] Temporary hidden services

Michael Rogers michael at briarproject.org
Thu Sep 27 12:43:54 UTC 2018

Hi all,

The Briar team is working on a way for users to add each other as
contacts by exchanging links without having to meet in person.

We don't want to include the address of the user's long-term Tor hidden
service in the link, as we assume the link may be observed by an
adversary, who would then be able to use the availability of the hidden
service to tell whether the user was online at any future time.

We're considering two solutions to this issue. The first is to use a
temporary hidden service that's discarded after, say, 24 hours. The
address of the temporary hidden service is included in the link. This
limits the window during which the user's activity is exposed to an
adversary who observes the link, but it also requires the contact to use
the link before it expires.

The second solution is to include an ECDH public key in the link,
exchange links with the contact, and derive a hidden service key pair
from the shared secret. The key pair is known to both the user and the
contact. One of them publishes the hidden service, the other connects to
it. They exchange long-term hidden service addresses via the temporary
hidden service, which is then discarded.

The advantage of the second solution is that the user's link is static -
it doesn't expire and can be shared with any number of contacts. A
different shared secret, and thus a different temporary hidden service,
is used for adding each contact.

But using a hidden service in such a way that the client connecting to
the service knows the service's private key is clearly a departure from
the normal way of doing things. So before pursuing this idea I wanted to
check whether it's safe, in the sense that the hidden service still
conceals its owner's identity from the client.

Attacks against the availability of the service (such as uploading a
different descriptor) are pointless in this scenario because the client
is the only one who would connect to the service anyway. So I'm just
interested in attacks against anonymity.

Can anyone shed any light on this question? Or is this way of using
hidden services too disgusting to even discuss? :-)

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