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Tor, the (in)famous encrypted web browser, may not be strong enough to resist the next generation’s attacks on encryption. What will the next generation of encryption tools look like?
Tor came to the forefront of the privacy debate through providing an encrypted web browser used by such services as the Silk Road.
In the years since Edward Snowden leaked the NSA’s mass collection of metadata, the amount of Internet users interested in encryption grew dramatically.
However, Tor’s encryption may not be completely trusted. In fact, 80% of user types may be de-anonymized within six months, according to a study by the US Naval Research Laboratory, indicating that the encryption community may be in need of something stronger.
What will the next generation of encryption tools look like? Here are a few of the more promising contenders.
Riposte: A project that employs a DC-net encryption model to provide highly-anonymous traffic by protecting data by having every client on the network broadcast a data packet of similar size, obfuscating the original transmission. Riposte’s low-bandwidth high-latency output makes it suitable for microblogging, meaning it could be similar to an encrypted version of Twitter.
Riffle: An anonymous filesharing system employing a verifiable shuffle encryption model. Riffle could serve as a compliment to Tor, since large, rapidly-transmitted files would appear quite different than regular web browsing.
Dissent: Strong anonymity through a combination of verifiable shuffling and DC-net encryption, suitable for a private wifi network. However, because of the high demands of this level of cryptography, Dissent would likely face cost and scalability issues.
Alpenhorn: The next step for Vuvuzela, an encrypted, metadata-free messaging chat system. Encryption is based on a combination of encrypting whatever metadata possible while adding network noise to “pad” the remaining metadata from detection.
Herd: An encrypted VoIP system operating by filling the network with decoy noise to make users indistinguishable from each other. Billed as “metadata-free Signal.”
The evolution of privacy systems could not come soon enough. Governments around the world are gearing up for an assault on encryption -- necessitating stronger forms of privacy countermeasures. The EU faces pressure from France and Germany’s interior ministers to pass measures mandating backdoors be installed in all secure communications apps, which would effectively make end-to-end encryption illegal.
In the US, the FBI’s director has promised a crackdown on encryption to take place in 2017, after this November’s election is over.
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