Filename: 241-suspicious-guard-turnover.txt
Title: Resisting guard-turnover attacks
Author: Aaron Johnson, Nick Mathewson
Created: 2015-01-27
Status: Rejected

This proposal was made obsolete by the introduction of Proposal #259.
Some of the ideas here have be incorporated into Proposal #259.

1. Introduction

  Tor uses entry guards to prevent an attacker who controls some
  fraction of the network from observing a fraction of every user's
  traffic. If users chose their entries and exits uniformly at
  random from the list of servers every time they build a circuit,
  then an adversary who had (k/N) of the network would deanonymize
  F=(k/N)^2 of all circuits... and after a given user had built C
  circuits, the attacker would see them at least once with
  probability 1-(1-F)^C.  With large C, the attacker would get a
  sample of every user's traffic with probability 1.

  To prevent this from happening, Tor clients choose a small number
  of guard nodes (currently 1: see proposal 236).  These guard nodes
  are the only nodes that the client will connect to directly.  If
  they are not compromised, the user's paths are not compromised.

  But attacks remain.  Consider an attacker who can run a firewall
  between a target user and the Tor network, and make
  many of the guards they don't control appear to be unreachable.
  Or consider an attacker who can identify a user's guards, and mount
  denial-of-service attacks on them until the user picks a guard
  that the attacker controls.

  In the presence of these attacks, we can't continue to connect to
  the Tor network unconditionally.  Doing so would eventually result
  in the user choosing a hostile node as their guard, and losing

2. Proposed behavior

   Keep a record of all the guards we've tried to connect to,
   connected to, or extended circuits through in the last PERIOD

   (We have connected to a guard if we authenticate its identity.
   We have extended a circuit through a guard if we built a
   multi-hop circuit with it.)

   If the number of guards we have *tried* to connect to in the last
   PERIOD days is greater than CANDIDATE_THRESHOLD, do not attempt
   to connect to any other guards; only attempt the ones we have
   previously *tried* to connect to.

   If the number of guards we *have* connected to in the last PERIOD
   days is greater than CONNECTED_THRESHOLD, do not attempt to
   connect to any other guards; only attempt ones we have already
   *successfully* connected to.

   If we fail to connect to NET_THRESHOLD guards in a row, conclude
   that the network is likely down. Stop/notify the user; retry
   later; add no new guards for consideration.

 [[ optional
   If we notice that USE_THRESHOLD guards that we *used for
   circuits* in the last FAST_REACT_PERIOD days are not working, but
   some other guards are, assume that an attack is in progress, and
   stop/notify the user.

2.1. Suggested parameter thresholds.

  PERIOD -- 60 days

  FAST_REACT_PERIOD -- 10 days




 [[ optional
  (Each of the above should have a corresponding consensus parameter.)

2.2. What do we mean by "Stop/warn"?

  By default, we should probably give warnings in most of the above
  cases for the first version that deploys them.  We can have an
  on/off/auto setting for whether we will build circuits at all if we're
  in a "stopped" mode.  Default should be auto, meaning off for now.

  The warning needs to be carefully chosen, and suggest a workaround
  better than "get a better network" or "clear your state file".

2.3. What's with making USE_THRESHOLD optional?

  Aaron thinks that getting rid of it might help in the fascistfirewall
  case.  I'm a little unclear whether that makes any of the attacks

3. State storage requirements

Right now, we save for each guard that we have made contact with:

   is dircache?
   chosen-on-date, chosen-by-version
   path bias info (circ_attempts, successes, close_success)

To implement the above proposal, we'll need to add, for each guard
*or guard candidate*:
   when did we first decide to try connecting to it?
   when did we last do one of:
       decide to try connecting to it?
       connect to it?
       build a multihop circuit through it?
   which one was it?

Probably round these to the nearest day or so.

4. Future work

   We need to make this play nicely with mobility.  When a user has
   three guards on port 9001 and they move to a firewall that only
   allows 80/443, we'd prefer that they not simply grind to a halt.  If
   nodes are configured to stop when too many of their guards have gone
   away, this will confuse them.

   If people need to turn FascistFirewall on and off, great.  But if
   they just clear their state file as a workaround, that's not so good.

   If we could tie guard choice to location, that would help a great
   deal, but we'd need to answer the question, "Where am I on the
   network", which is not so easy to do passively if you're behind a

Appendix A. Scenario analysis

A.1. Example attacks

 * Filter Alice's connection so they can only talk to your guards.

 * Whenever Alice is using a guard you don't control, DOS it.

A.2. Example non-attacks

 * Alice's guard goes down.

 * Alice is on a laptop that is sometimes behind a firewall that
   blocks a guard, and sometimes is not.

 * Alice is on a laptop that's behind a firewall that blocks a lot
   of the tor network, (like, everything not on 80/443).

 * Alice has a network connection that sometimes turns off and turns
   on again.

 * Alice reboots her computer periodically, and tor starts a little
   while before the network is live.

Appendix B. Acknowledgements

  Thanks to Rob Jansen and David Goulet for comments on earlier versions of
  this draft.

Appendix C. Desirable revisions

  Incorporate ideas from proposal 156.