DARPA innovating a new anonymous mobile communication system

mobile communication

Updated July 18th, 2019

The US Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) develops innovative technologies which are implemented by the US army. Occasionally, DARPA makes the developed technologies available for citizens as well. DARPA has developed a myriad of innovative technologies such as the internet itself, Unix, GPS, and Tor.

DARPA is now working on the development of an anonymous mobile communication network, which is attack-resilient and associated within a contested anonymous network environment.

The new anonymous communication system has been named “Resilient Anonymous Communication for Everyone”, or RACE, and will rely on network stenography in order to obfuscate communication messages and metadata. The RACE project will be implemented to evade large scale adversary targeting via means of encryption as well as protocol embedding strategies.

The following represents the security properties of RACE, as stated by DARPA:

1- The sent messages can be only seen by the sender and the recipient.

2- Message metadata is encrypted to promote the confidentiality of whom communicates to whom and when.

3- The fact that user X uses the mobile phone’s app is not inferable, except if the user’s mobile phone is compromised.

4- The fact that user Y is running an application to implement the functionalities of service nodes should not be inferable, except if Y’s system has been compromised.

5- User messages can never be altered in transit.

6- The duration of end-to-end communication averages around a minute.

DARPA is planning to integrate the novel RACE anonymous communication technology into Android mobile apps used in messaging, as well as mobile applications for running system nodes. DARPA is also exploring the possibilities of utilizing the RACE protocol in technologies which can aid in mitigating denial of service (DoS) attacks.

Once its development is completed successfully, the RACE prototype would be comprised of 1,000 servers, which would be sufficient to test RACE’s technology use among 1,000 users. DARPA stated that the bandwidth of the outgoing communication path between an obfuscated client and a server is estimated to be around 500 kbps, while the bandwidth of server to server communication is estimated to be around 10 Mbps.

Testing of the RACE protocol will involve identification of specific or general computation classes that will be required by the RACE system and explaining why these computation classes can be deployed via MPC within the efficiency and scale required. Moreover, the experiments should show how the RACE system can scale to around 10,000 users who would averagely send 50 messages per day to other users across the network. As RACE involves a network framework where the recipient has to retrieve the sent messages from the server, the resilient distributed storage issues have to be solved.

RACE’s challenges also include:

– Creating protocol encapsulation mechanisms for certain target channels

– Precisely modeling target channels via statistical distributions

– Rigorously assessing statistical similarity of encapsulated network traffic to ordinary traffic

– Resisting attacks where the adversary may be attempting to actively manipulate links and hack service nodes

– Proposals have to analyze the elements needed to test RACE’s technologies within the context of a simulated network environment.

One of the most ideal uses of RACE can be in the form of an anonymous messaging application, as well as a service, to execute anonymous transactions via cryptocurrencies. One can safely say that DARPA is working on the development of a technology that is somewhat similar to Tor and cannot be discovered even if a wide scale real-time data packet inspection attack is launched.

Since legal entities and private companies are hell-bent on monitoring people’s online behavior, such an attack resistant technology represents a great step towards the protection of the privacy of internet users.

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Written by John Marsh

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