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Theme fund: NGI0 PET
Start: 2019-10
End: 2019-10

Fix the Pitch Black Attack in Freenet routing

A decentralized distributed platform for private communication

Hyphanet (previously: Freenet) is a peer-to-peer platform with academic roots, offering censorship-resistant publication and privacy by design. It uses a decentralized distributed data store to store and forward information of its users, and is one of the oldest privacy related infrastructures - having been in continuous development for two decades, and predating the alpha version of TOR with several years. This project solves a published theoretical denial-of-service attack on the friend-to-friend structure of its routing, which has been a looming threat since it was discovered a number of years ago.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

Privacy is a matter of control. When you want to protect your privacy, it does not mean you never tell anyone anything, it means you want to be in control of who you share your personal information with. On the internet a lot of control is taken away from you. The technology that lets you connect to networks all around the world and find information anywhere it is stored is built around identification, both of its users and the virtual places they visit. Unfortunately, many crucial networking standards and protocols were not designed with user privacy in mind, let alone giving them any sense of control over who can see what they do online. This vacuum has been filled with all sorts of tracking and tracing schemes that can make detailed profiles of people, which can then be (mis)used for commercial or even criminal gain.

Freenet is one of the oldest online platforms that protects user privacy and free speech by offering as much anonymity as possible. The users of Freenet actually make up the network where instead of central servers, each peer contributes bandwidth and some hard drive space to store content. Together this creates a decentralized data store that makes it possible to create censorship-resistant websites, chat forums and search within the network. Users can go even further to protect their privacy and only trust peers they know they can trust. This makes it even harder to block usage of Freenet, which is especially valuable for people living with governmental censorship.

Because a peer-to-peer-network like Freenet relies on its users, attacking peers can potentially affect the whole platform. For example, someone could create a large number of fake users that together try to influence the network in a certain way. This project aims to implement a defense measure against these kinds of attacks and ensure that the network remains stable and trustworthy. The Next Generation Internet needs places like Freenet that protect free speech, resist censorship and allow users unobstructed communication, which this project will make sure of.

Logo NLnet: abstract logo of four people seen from above Logo NGI Zero: letterlogo shaped like a tag

This project was funded through the NGI0 PET Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825310.