Filename: 113-fast-authority-interface.txt
Title: Simplifying directory authority administration
Author: Nick Mathewson
Status: Superseded


The problem:

  Administering a directory authority is a pain: you need to go through
  emails and manually add new nodes as "named".  When bad things come up,
  you need to mark nodes (or whole regions) as invalid, badexit, etc.

  This means that mostly, authority admins don't: only 2/4 current authority
  admins actually bind names or list bad exits, and those two have often
  complained about how annoying it is to do so.

  Worse, name binding is a common path, but it's a pain in the neck: nobody
  has done it for a couple of months.

Digression: who knows what?

  It's trivial for Tor to automatically keep track of all of the
  following information about a server:
    name, fingerprint, IP, last-seen time, first-seen time, declared

  All we need to have the administrator set is:
    - Is this name/fingerprint pair bound?
    - Is this fingerprint/IP a bad exit?
    - Is this fingerprint/IP an invalid node?
    - Is this fingerprint/IP to be rejected?

  The workflow for authority admins has two parts:
    - Periodically, go through tor-ops and add new names.  This doesn't
      need to be done urgently.
    - Less often, mark badly behaved serves as badly behaved.  This is more

Possible solution #1: Web-interface for name binding.

  Deprecate use of the tor-ops mailing list; instead, have operators go to a
  webform and enter their server info.  This would put the information in a
  standardized format, thus allowing quick, nearly-automated approval and

Possible solution #2: Self-binding names.

  Peter Palfrader has proposed that names be assigned automatically to nodes
  that have been up and running and valid for a while.

Possible solution #3: Self-maintaining approved-routers file

  Mixminion alpha has a neat feature where whenever a new server is seen,
  a stub line gets added to a configuration file.  For Tor, it could look
  something like this:

    ## First seen with this key on 2007-04-21 13:13:14
    ## Stayed up for at least 12 hours on IP

  (Note that the implementation needs to parse commented lines to make sure
  that it doesn't add duplicates, but that's not so hard.)

  To add a router as named, administrators would only need to uncomment the
  entry.  This automatically maintained file could be kept separately from a
  manually maintained one.

  This could be combined with solution #2, such that Tor would do the hard
  work of uncommenting entries for routers that should get Named, but
  operators could override its decisions.

Possible solution #4: A separate mailing list for authority operators.

  Right now, the tor-ops list is very high volume.  There should be another
  list that's only for dealing with problems that need prompt action, like
  marking a router as !badexit.


  Solution #2 is described in "Proposal 123: Naming authorities
  automatically create bindings", and that approach is implemented.
  There are remaining issues in the problem statement above that need
  their own solutions.