Simulating a Global Passive Adversary for Attacking Tor-like Anonymity Systems
Speaker: Angelos Keromytis, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science at Columbia University, and Director of the Network Security Laboratory
Date: 15 July 2008 Time: 12:00-13:30
Location: "Stelios Orphanoudakis" Seminar Room, FORTH, Heraklion, Crete
Host: Euaggelos Markatos


We present a novel, practical, and effective mechanism for identifying the IP address of Tor clients. We approximate an almost-global passive adversary (GPA) capable of eavesdropping anywhere in the network by using LinkWidth, a novel bandwidth-estimation technique. LinkWidth allows network edge-attached entities to estimate the available bandwidth in an arbitrary Internet link without a cooperating peer host, router, or ISP. By modulating the bandwidth of an anonymous connection (e.g., when the destination server or its router is under our control), we can observe these fluctuations as they propagate through the Tor network and the Internet to the end-user's IP address. Our technique exploits one of the design criteria for Tor by allowing well-provisioned adversaries to effectively become GPAs.

Although timing-based attacks have been demonstrated against non- timing-preserving anonymity networks, they have depended either on a global passive adversary or on the compromise of a substantial number of Tor nodes. Our technique does not require compromise of any Tor nodes. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach in tracking the IP address of Tor users in a series of experiments. Even for an under-provisioned adversary with only two network vantage points, we can accurately identify the end user (IP address) in many cases. Furthermore, we show that a well-provisioned adversary, using a topological map of the network, can trace-back the path of an anonymous user in under 20 minutes. Finally, we can trace an anonymous Location Hidden Service in approximately 120 minutes.


Angelos Keromytis is an Associate Professor with the Department of Computer Science at Columbia University, and director of the Network Security Laboratory. He received his B.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Crete, Greece, and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. from the Computer and Information Science (CIS) Department, University of Pennsylvania. He is the author and co-author of more than 130 papers on refereed conferences and journals, and has served on over 60 conference program committees. He is an associate editor of the ACM Transactions on Information and Systems Security (TISSEC). He recently co-authored a book on using graphics cards for security, and is a co- founder of StackSafe Inc. His current research interests revolve around systems and network security, and cryptography.

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