Devising Invisible Ink

WASHINGTON — An ambitious effort to protect online anonymity will kick off this weekend. A working group of about a dozen technologists, called NymIP, is gathering before the Internet Engineering Task Force’s meeting to take the very first steps toward devising a standard that will foster untraceable communications and Web browsing for Internet users.

WASHINGTON — An ambitious effort to protect online anonymity will kick off this weekend. A working group of about a dozen technologists, called NymIP, is gathering before the Internet Engineering Task Force’s meeting to take the very first steps toward devising a standard that will foster untraceable communications and Web browsing for Internet users.

Currently, commercial products such as Anonymizer.com and Zero Knowledge’s Freedom client permit anonymous or pseudonymous Net-surfing. The NymIP effort aims to create standard protocols that would be more widely adopted and not tied to one company’s product or service.

Zero Knowledge, a Montreal firm, began the project last month, but the working group is now headed by Harvard University’s Scott Bradner, an IETF veteran. Quips Zero Knowledge engineer John Bashinski: “I’ve been heard enough as it is, and am trying to moderate my natural big-mouthed tendencies and let others speak for a while.”

One probable topic of discussion: The tradeoffs between bandwidth and security. Absolute security requires scads of cover traffic to mask the communications that a user wants to conceal, but it also eats up bandwidth.

“Scalability isn’t too bad if you’re looking at scaling the number of users,” writes Bashinski in a post to the NymIP mailing list. “Where scaling seems to bite you is with the size of the anonymity group, defined as the set of users that, given the information the recipient or an eavesdropper has, could have sent a given message. In high-security systems, more or less those with meaningful resistance to traffic analysis, scaling in the anonymity group size seems to be superlinear, maybe even N^2.”

Translation: That’s enough to clog a lot of T-3 lines.

The meeting is set for Sunday afternoon in advance of the IETF gathering in San Diego.

Author: Declam McCullagh

News Service: Wired News

URL: http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,40582,00.html