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Future of Online Anonymity

Core of the project on the Future of Online Anonymity (FuOnA) is to advance the technical means available to use the Internet without giving up personal information. Currently, Tor is the go-to software for people seeking to disconnect their online persona(e) from their real identity, and about two million people are presumed to use it every day. However, Tor has aged, and the threat model and design choices do no longer reflect the current state of the art. Numerous successors are currently fighting for the line of succession, and most of them have their very specific use case that cannot be applied easily to achieve online anonymity in general and across services.

Project Outline

In this project, we will study the underlying building blocks for online anonymity and how they can be used to secure our online identities in the future. This will include studying the economics for these services, weighting the costs against the additional benefits of using them, and adding the identified approaches that are the most suitable back to the Tor project. We will study how the current layout of the Internet influences the usage of online anonymity tools, as it is not flat in structure but rather centralized and geographically densely located. Additionally we will focus our work on how these building blocks can be used to serve future networks such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and the communication between cars. Many more use cases could be feasible and the identified mechanisms will be of use for future network designs.

Preliminary Results

In 2018, we analyzed different approaches of traffic anonymization. We studied the implications of different path selection algorithms and observers that have a strong position to deanonymize users. Therefore, we developed a new measurement technique utilizing the RIPE Atlas network.

To facilitate cooperation with the Tor community over the whole duration of the project, Wilfried Mayer co-founded the “Foundation for Applied Privacy” in March 2018. The Foundation focuses on privacy enhancing services and – as its first project – deployed powerful Tor Exit Relays in Austria.

We also started to evaluate the influence of key transparency systems e.g., certificate transparency on malware detection security mechanisms.

Further Information