MIT's Riffle Aims to Compete with Tor for Spot as Anonymity King

MIT’s Riffle Aims to Compete with Tor for Spot as Anonymity King

Anonymity Riffle

Researchers at MIT have devised a blueprint for a new kind of anonymous network, called Riffle, that they believe will be just as secure as Tor, if not more so.

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Apparently, the proposed scheme is more bandwidth efficient than Tor, and can guarantee anonymity as long there is at least one honest server — a proxy server working to sustain system integrity as opposed to a malicious client attempting to undermine it for personal gain. 

Riffle: A Tamper-Proof System

mit RiffleAccording to the project’s white paper, “Riffle: An Efficient Communication System with Strong Anonymity,” the project employs a series of proxy servers, or nodes, that mixes up the order of messages before sending them forward to be received by other nodes. As long as one honest server exists the performance of the system should remain steady.

The Researchers explain how their proposed system will maintain a secure status, even when malicious agents are present, saying:

“Assuming at least one of the mixes is honest, a verifiable mixnet is secure even with compromised mixes in the network: The honest mix alone shuffles inputs sufficiently to thwart traffic analysis attacks, and malicious mixes cannot tamper with messages without generating a bad proof,”

The author’s reasons for designing the scheme carry a privacy-centric theme to them that suggest an overarching libertarian-esque motive in creating the platform.

The researchers say whistleblowers, protesters, and those with controversial viewpoints should always be provided access to a platform that allows people’s opinions to be heard. Moreover, the writers note that, despite its popularity, Tor has become vulnerable to attack, specifically to “traffic analysis attacks” in particular which according to the author’s come from “authoritarian government[s] or a state-controlled ISPs.”

While Tor remains the go-to anonymity network among most people, the popular software may need to watch its back as it potentially faces stiff competition from Riffle. After all, Riffle happens to be the brain-child of researchers representing an institution that, to say the least, are no slackers in the field of technological innovation.

Indeed, MIT has often been on the frontier of technological innovation and invention, including areas that directly affect Bitcoin, the blockchain, and fintech in general. The prestigious higher-educational institute has contributed to bitcoin-oriented entrepreneurship in more than just one way. Just recently, it has done so through its ground-breaking research in quantum computing that could very well make traditional cryptography obsolete.

Security Experts Fighting Back Against Government Intrusion

The newly proposed network unveiled by the MIT researchers follows a dark period of sorts for anonymity enhancing software. Earlier this year, Tor was infiltrated by the FBI using an exploit to create a backdoor within the software. Ever since the anonymous nature of the program has been cast into doubt, with many users not sure whether or not they should trust it. Riffle

However, Tor developers have been cooking up some new security strategies of their own. The developers within the project recently teamed-up with security experts in order to respond to the FBI’s exploit. The new technique, called Selfrando, would essentially create a “hardened” version of the Tor browser. This would entail counteracting “code reuse” exploits, where memory leaks allow attackers to reuse existing code libraries instead of injecting an entirely new malicious code.

While everyone’s favorite anonymity network may end up being toppled by an up-and-coming challenger, it seems that security experts are beginning to join together, and in this particular case compete with one another in order to find the best way to battle government breaches of privacy.

What do you think of this newly proposed privacy enhancement system? Let us know in the comments below!

Source: Threatpost

Images Courtesy of, MIT,

Trevor Hill

Trevor Hill

Trevor is a writer at Bitcoinist. He is currently attending his first year at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, with a selected major in Economics. Subscribes to the Austrian school of economics.

  • Pflarp

    It shouldn’t be thought of as something that is going to ‘topple’ Tor or knock it out of any running. Riffle and for that matter *ANY* security concsious application/program that is *FOR* We the Peons and protects us from governments and other asshats that want to be more like old Russia, is nothing but a Good Thing. The competitiveness is also a Good Thing as it will bring out people who want to help and have the capacity to do so, hopefully even creating more ways to slap crappy governments in the face telling them to FOAD. If though, it ever gets to the point that security things like Riffle and Tor start fighting, then we are lost. It’d be a better thing if they got together and came up with one ‘best’ app than to keep fighting.