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Annabelle Theobald

Web3 Foundation funds work of CISPA faculty Dr. Julian Loss

The senior scientist will receive around 80,000 euros for his research on the security of so-called mix networks.

Guaranteeing the security and anonymity of our communication on the Internet is a significant challenge for cybersecurity research. The desirability of private data for attackers is too great, as it has become the number one commodity in recent years. Many services now promise solutions to this problem. One solution for more privacy can be so-called mixnets. Instead of messages being routed directly from a sender to their destination, several stations - so-called mixes - are interposed in a mixnet. However, redirections are not the only means used by mixnets: They also produce additional data traffic to disguise the fact that a particular data packet is being transported from A to B. This is to prevent attackers from intercepting specific messages. A weakened form of a mix network that is familiar to many is the Tor network. However, when Tor was developed some 20 years ago, the possibilities were much more limited than today, Loss explains. With current network connections, it is possible to implement more anonymous mix networks in an efficient and scalable way, he says.

"The problem is that the promised security guarantees of such networks have often not been mathematically proven because that is very difficult. The criteria for formally correct safety proofs have become much stricter in recent years," says Julian Loss.

Together with Jeffrey Burdges of the Web3 Foundation and CISPA researcher Dimtris Papachristoudis, he wants to change that for the mixnet "Sphinx." In addition to providing a security guarantee for Sphinx, the "Decentralized mix node assessment" (DMNA for short) project also aims to develop ideas on how to get stations in a mixed network to do their job correctly and neatly obfuscate data packets. "Financial incentives, for example, could help. Implementing such a reward system safely without degrading the quality of the network is another part of our project." The project is initially scheduled to run for one year but can be extended.

About the Web3 Foundation

The Web3 Foundation was established to promote and maintain technologies and applications in the area of decentralized web software protocols, particularly those that use modern cryptographic methods to secure decentralization, for the benefit and stability of the Web3 ecosystem.

translated by Oliver Schedler