Threat Model
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net2o's original motivation and development start was before the Snowden leaks. Therefore, the threat model has been influenced by two or three forms of adversaries:

  1. The criminal, who spread malware and phishing, and break into centralized servers to steal passwords.

  2. The authoritarian state, e.g. China, which monitors activities and censors/blocks content, often by using MITM attacks on secure transports. A variation of the authoritarian state is the corporate IT, which does the same.

  3. The corporate data harvester, who stalks you through the net, and collects data to place ads; often enough data that is relatively close to metadata, like which page did you visit when. That data can be abused in different ways, too.

It turned out that the NSA is a combination of all three threats, plus a new threat, the wide collection of metadata, and corresponding actions taken when people are in contact with "targets", including indirect contacts.

Threats in detail with solution and remaining impact

  1. Remote execution: Many security holes allow remote code execution. This paves the way for malware. Since defect density of well-designed and -debugged code is only two orders of magnitude better than lousy code, the overall code size has to be limited. And for this code, all bugs simply have to be found and fixed.

  2. Eavesdropping, passive: Wiretapping allows to record all communication, and collect data and metadata. Data can be perfectly protected by encryption. However, metadata is available at several places: Direct connections (without onion routing) are revealing. Queries in DHT nodes, which can be operated by enemies, can be revealing, too. When the adversary taps big interchange nodes, direct connections may be hidden by taking a shorter route. Onion routing can be ineffective, if the adversary controls enough relays, especially the most vulnerable entry nodes. So good anonymization is way more difficult to reach than good data protection. For a start, all nodes in an onion router mesh must be equal, and none of them may know if they are entry or rendesvouz nodes.

  3. Eavesdropping, active: The adversary tries to perform a man in the middle attack (MITM). Public key exchange only protects against passive eavesdropping. So keys have to be verified that they belong to the person you want to talk to; to reduce the burden of verification, a trust on first use (TOFU) model is used. Key revokation is based on proof of creation, so once you trust a key, you can revoke and generate a new key, which is trusted, too.

  4. Censorship, blocking: Adversaries want to censor based on keywords, persons and sites you want to visit. Encryption protect against keyword search, relays outside the control of the adversary allow to connect to persons and sites as you like. The adversary still can cut you entirely off the net, or insulate the people under his control from the rest of the world, by dropping all packets at his borders, or identifying relays as such and drop connections to open relays/proxies only. Trivial attempts to figure out if a host is an open relay can be blocked by stealth nodes; but the stealth PSK is likely public (through the DHT), unless you have a special relation to the relay, in which case it is severely reducing your anonymity.

  5. Censorship by harassing the origin: Anonymity can shield you from being detected as the origin; easy use of multiple, seemingly unrelated ids can help to hide the identity of particular activities, plus all means to hide metadata. However, persons with high influence can often be detected by other means (e.g. stylometry), which means anybody who angers the authority must make no mistakes, and eventually has to move to a secure place, before he's identifed. This is difficult, as it is not always clear who is your adversary, and who is your friend. Hiding the identity is particularly difficult for celebrities whos fanbase want to have a verified contact, and who speak to the public. These are usually also the most influential people. Technical solutions can only rise the price for being detected, so ideally the price to get you corresponds to the evil you did. The primary effort of net2o is to make mass surveillance prohibitively expensive, but targeted individuals very likely still face danger.

  6. Confiscating and searching devices: Adversaries may be able to get physical access to your devices or the devices with your backups. Full disk encryption (outside the scope of net2o) can help in off mode, file encryption (net2o vaults) help you on multi-user systems where other users may legitimely access some files, but not others. File encryption is also necessary when you store files on devices owned by other people (e.g. online off-site backups). Tamper detection (outside the net2o scope) is necessary to avoid using bugged device. Several solutions here are outside the scope of net2o.

Trust model

Actually, a threat model is somehow a wrong way to design secure software. A threat model makes the assumption of "default permit", and deny access to the threat. "Default deny" is more important. Who can you trust?

  1. Nobody. You can't even trust yourself, because you will make mistakes.

Of course, that's an extreme position, but we are dealing with that sort of trust model all the time. So what's a realistic trust model? A realistic trust model follows a "need to know" principle - you can't distrust those who need to know. But you verify that they deserve your trust.

  1. You trust yourself. You educate youself to reduce the risk of making stupid mistakes.

  2. You trust those you communicate with to the extent that they also have access to the communication you have with them. You use your communication to verify that they deserve that trust. This is particularly important when you want to publish: everybody is your reader.

  3. You trust the authors of the software you use, and the auditors of this software, but to make sure that trust is deserved, they make their sources available, and their development process transparent.

  4. You keep as much data on your own systems, and encrypt it when it is stored or transmitted elsewhere, but to enable public contacts, you need information in the public.

  5. Anonymous communication relies on a combination of trust, unrelatedness, and cover traffic (which requires being central enough to deserve trust from many users). This is why it's so hard.