nym-0.2 released (fwd)

Jason Holt jason at lunkwill.org
Sun Oct 2 18:23:50 EDT 2005

On Sun, 2 Oct 2005, cyphrpunk wrote:
> 1. Limting token requests by IP doesn't work in today's internet. Most

Hopeless negativism.  I limit by IP because that's what Wikipedia is already 
doing.  Sure, hashcash would be easy to add, and I looked into it just last 
night.  Of course, as several have observed, hashcash also leads to 
whack-a-mole problems, and the abuser doesn't even have to be savvy enough to 
change IPs.

Why aren't digital credential systems more widespread? As has been suggested 
here and elsewhere at great length, it takes too much infrastructure. It's too 
easy when writing a security paper to call swaths of CAs into existance with 
the stroke of the pen.  To assume that any moment now, people will start 
carrying around digital driver's licenses and social security cards (issued in 
the researcher's pet format), which they'll be happy to show the local library 
in exchange for a digital library card.

That's why I'm so optimistic about nym. A reasonable number of Tor users, a 
technically inclined group of people on average, want to access a single major 
site. That site isn't selling ICBMs; they mostly want people to have access 
anyway. They have an imperfect rationing system based on IPs. The resource is 
cheap, the policy is simple, and the user needs to conceal a single attribute 
about herself. There's a simple mathematical solution that yields certificates 
which are already supported by existing software. That, my friend, is a 
problem we can solve.

> I suggest a proof of work system a la hashcash. You don't have to use
> that directly, just require the token request to be accompanied by a
> value whose sha1 hash starts with say 32 bits of zeros (and record
> those to avoid reuse).

I like the idea of requiring combinations of scarce resources. It's definitely 
on the wishlist for future releases.  Captchas could be integrated as well.

> 2. The token reuse detection in signcert.cgi is flawed. Leading zeros
> can be added to r which will cause it to miss the saved value in the
> database, while still producing the same rbinary value and so allowing
> a token to be reused arbitrarily many times.

Thanks for pointing that out! Shouldn't be hard to fix.

> 3. signer.cgi attempts to test that the value being signed is > 2^512.
> This test is ineffective because the client is blinding his values. He
> can get a signature on, say, the value 2, and you can't stop him.
> 4. Your token construction, sign(sha1(r)), is weak. sha1(r) is only
> 160 bits which could allow a smooth-value attack. This involves
> getting signatures on all the small primes up to some limit k, then
> looking for an r such that sha1(r) factors over those small primes
> (i.e. is k-smooth). For k = 2^14 this requires getting less than 2000
> signatures on small primes, and then approximately one in 2^40 160-bit
> values will be smooth. With a few thousand more signatures the work
> value drops even lower.

Oh, I think I see. The k-smooth sha1(r) values then become "bonus" tokens, so 
we use a large enough h() that the result is too hard to factor (or, I suppose 
we could make the client present properly PKCS padded preimages).  I'll do 
some more reading, but I think that makes sense.  Thanks!


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