Filename: 134-robust-voting.txt
Title: More robust consensus voting with diverse authority sets
Author: Peter Palfrader
Created: 2008-04-01
Status: Rejected

  2009 May 27: Added note on rejecting this proposal -- Nick


  A means to arrive at a valid directory consensus even when voters
  disagree on who is an authority.


  Right now there are about five authoritative directory servers in the
  Tor network, tho this number is expected to rise to about 15 eventually.

  Adding a new authority requires synchronized action from all operators of
  directory authorities so that at any time during the update at least half of
  all authorities are running and agree on who is an authority.  The latter
  requirement is there so that the authorities can arrive at a common
  consensus:  Each authority builds the consensus based on the votes from
  all authorities it recognizes, and so a different set of recognized
  authorities will lead to a different consensus document.


  The modified voting procedure outlined in this proposal obsoletes the
  requirement for most authorities to exactly agree on the list of


  The vote document each authority generates contains a list of 
  authorities recognized by the generating authority.  This will be 
  a list of authority identity fingerprints.

  Authorities will accept votes from and serve/mirror votes also for
  authorities they do not recognize.  (Votes contain the signing,
  authority key, and the certificate linking them so they can be 
  verified even without knowing the authority beforehand.)

  Before building the consensus we will check which votes to use for

   1) We build a directed graph of which authority/vote recognizes
   2) (Parts of the graph that aren't reachable, directly or
      indirectly, from any authorities we recognize can be discarded
   3) We find the largest fully connected subgraph.
      (Should there be more than one subgraph of the same size there
      needs to be some arbitrary ordering so we always pick the same.
      E.g. pick the one who has the smaller (XOR of all votes' digests)
      or something.)
   4) If we are part of that subgraph, great.  This is the list of 
      votes we build our consensus with.
   5) If we are not part of that subgraph, remove all the nodes that
      are part of it and go to 3.

  Using this procedure authorities that are updated to recognize a
  new authority will continue voting with the old group until a
  sufficient number has been updated to arrive at a consensus with
  the recently added authority.

  In fact, the old set of authorities will probably be voting among
  themselves until all but one has been updated to recognize the
  new authority.  Then which set of votes is used for consensus 
  building depends on which of the two equally large sets gets 
  ordered before the other in step (3) above.

  It is necessary to continue with the process in (5) even if we
  are not in the largest subgraph.  Otherwise one rogue authority
  could create a number of extra votes (by new authorities) so that
  everybody stops at 5 and no consensus is built, even tho it would
  be trusted by all clients.

Anonymity Implications:

  The author does not believe this proposal to have anonymity

Possible Attacks/Open Issues/Some thinking required:

 Q: Can a number (less or exactly half) of the authorities cause an honest
    authority to vote for "their" consensus rather than the one that would
    result were all authorities taken into account?

 Q: Can a set of votes from external authorities, i.e of whom we trust either
    none or at least not all, cause us to change the set of consensus makers we
 A: Yes, if other authorities decide they rather build a consensus with them
    then they'll be thrown out in step 3.  But that's ok since those other
    authorities will never vote with us anyway.
    If we trust none of them then we throw them out even sooner, so no harm done.

 Q: Can this ever force us to build a consensus with authorities we do not
 A: No, we can never build a fully connected set with them in step 3.


I'm rejecting this proposal as insecure.

Suppose that we have a clique of size N, and M hostile members in the
clique.  If these hostile members stop declaring trust for up to M-1
good members of the clique, the clique with the hostile members will
in it will be larger than the one without them.

The M hostile members will constitute a majority of this new clique
when M > (N-(M-1)) / 2, or when M > (N + 1) / 3.  This breaks our
requirement that an adversary must compromise a majority of authorities
in order to control the consensus.

-- Nick