The Dangers of Composing Anonymous Channels

George Danezis
Information Hiding - 14th International Conference, IH 2012, Revised Selected Papers, Springer, Lecture notes in Computer Science(2013), pp. 191-206
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We present traffic analyses of two anonymous communications schemes that build on the classic Crowds/Hordes protocols. The AJSS10 [1] scheme combines multiple Crowds-like forward channels with a Hordes reply channel in an attempt to offer robustness in a mobile environment. We show that the resulting scheme fails to guarantee the claimed k-anonymity, and is in fact more vulnerable to malicious peers than Hordes, while suffering from higher latency. Similarly, the RWS11 [15] scheme invokes multiple instances of Crowds to provide receiver anonymity. We demonstrate that the sender anonymity of the scheme is susceptible to a variant of the predecessor attack [21], while receiver anonymity is fully compromised with an active attack. We conclude that the heuristic security claims of AJSS10 and RWS11 do not hold, and argue that composition of multiple anonymity channels can in fact weaken overall security. In contrast, we provide a rigorous security analysis of Hordes under the same threat model, and reflect on design principles for future anonymous channels to make them amenable to such security analysis.