Distributed Messaging Systems and Covert Networks

Vitaly Shmatikov, Computer Science, and Helen Nissenbaum, Information Science, are working with collaborators at SRI International, Princeton University, and University of Chicago to design, implement, and evaluate distributed messaging systems. These systems enable mobile clients and computing nodes to form covert overlay networks and to communicate securely without revealing their identities—or even that communication is taking place—in hostile regional networks. 

The researchers are developing communication protocols and systems that are robust against nation-state adversaries who fully control the network, can observe all network traffic, and deploy sophisticated traffic analysis techniques. To solve this challenging research problem, Shmatikov and Nissenbaum are leveraging the stochastic nature of emerging network protocols and also developing new, rigorous methods for formalizing and proving resistance to traffic analysis.

The technologies developed in this work can be applied toward censorship-resistant communications and secure messaging systems that will remain unobservable in hostile network environments.

Cornell Researchers

Funding Received

$1.2 Million spanning 4 years

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