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Atom: Horizontally Scaling Strong Anonymity

Albert Kwon
Henry Corrigan-Gibbs
Srinivas Devadas
Bryan Ford

26th ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles (SOSP)
October 30, 2017


Atom is an anonymous messaging system that protects against traffic-analysis attacks. Unlike many prior systems, each Atom server touches only a small fraction of the total messages routed through the network. As a result, the system’s capacity scales near-linearly with the number of servers. At the same time, each Atom user benefits from “best possible” anonymity: a user is anonymous among all honest users of the system, even against an active adversary who monitors the entire network, a portion of the system’s servers, and any number of malicious users. The architectural ideas behind Atom have been known in theory, but putting them into practice requires new techniques for (1) avoiding heavy general-purpose multi-party computation protocols, (2) defeating active attacks by malicious servers at minimal performance cost, and (3) handling server failure and churn.

Atom is most suitable for sending a large number of short messages, as in a microblogging application or a high-security communication bootstrapping (“dialing”) for private messaging systems. We show that, on a heterogeneous network of 1,024 servers, Atom can transit a million Tweet-length messages in 28 minutes. This is over 23× faster than prior systems with similar privacy guarantees.

Paper: PDF

Talk slides: PDF

Topics: Privacy Anonymity Networks Scalability Verifiable Shuffles Bryan Ford