A Hidden Service Hackfest: The Arlington Accords

At the beginning of July, a few of us gathered in Washington DC for the first hidden service hackfest. Our crew was comprised of core Tor developers and researchers who were in the area; mostly attendees of PETS. The aim was to push hidden service development forward and swiftly arrive at decisions that were too tiresome and complex to make over e-mail.

Since we were mostly technical folks, we composed technical proposals and prioritized development, and spent less time with organizational or funding tasks. Here is a snapshot of the work that we did during those 5 days:

  • The first day, we discussed current open topics on hidden services and tasks we should be doing in the short-to-medium-term future.

    Our list of tasks included marketing and fundraising ones like "Re-branding hidden services" and "Launch crowdfunding campaign", but we spent most of the first day discussing Proposal 224 aka the "Next Generation Hidden Services" project.

  • Proposal 224 is our master plan for improving hidden services in fundamental ways: The new system will be faster, use better cryptography, have more secure onion addresses, and offer advanced security properties like improved DoS resistance and keeping identity keys offline. It's heavy engineering work, and we are still fine-tuning the design, so implementation has not started yet.

    While discussing how we would implement the system, we decided that we would need to write most of the code for this new protocol from scratch, instead of hooking into the old and rusty hidden service code. To move this forward, we spent part of the following days splitting the proposal into individual modules and figuring out how to refactor the current data structures so that the new protocol can coexist with the old protocol.

  • One open design discussion on proposal 224 has been an earlier suggestion of merging the roles of "hidden service directory" and "introduction point" on the hidden service protocol. This change would improve the security and performance as well as simplify the relevant code, and reduce load on the network. Because it changes the protocol a bit, it would be good to have it specified precisely. For this reason, we spent the second and third days writing a proposal that defines how this change works.
  • Another core part of proposal 224 is the protocol for global randomness calculation. That's a system where the Tor network itself generates a fresh, unpredictable random value everyday; basically like the NIST Randomness Beacon but decentralized.

    Proposal 225 specifies a way that this can be achieved, but there are still various engineering details that need to be ironed out. We spent some time discussing the various ways we can implement the system and the engineering decisions we should take, and produced a draft Tor proposal that specifies the system.

  • We also discussed guard discovery attacks, and the various defenses that we could deploy. The fact that many core Tor people were present helped us decide rapidly which various parameters and trade-offs that we should pick. We sketched a proposal and posted it to the [tor-dev] mailing list and it has already received very helpful feedback.
  • We also took our old design for "Direct Onion Services" and revised it into a faster and far more elegant protocol. These types of services trade service-side location privacy for improved performance, reliability, and scalability. They will allow sites like reddit to offer their services faster on hidden services while respecting their clients anonymity. During the last days of the hackfest, we wrote a draft proposal for this new design.
  • We did more development on OnioNS, the Onion Name System, which allows a hidden service operator to register a human memorable name (e.g. example.tor) that can be used instead of the regular onion address. In the last days of the hackfest we prepared a proof-of-concept demo wherein a domain name was registered and then the Tor Browser successfully loaded a hidden service under that name. That was a significant step for the project.
  • We talked about rebranding the "Hidden Services" project to "Onion Services" to reduce "hidden"/"dark"/"evil" name connotations, and improve terminology. In fact, we've been on this for a while, but we are still not sure what the right name is. What do you think?

And that's only part of what we did. We also wrote code for various tickets, reviewed even more code and really learned how to use Ricochet.

All in all, we managed to fit more things than we hoped into those few days and we hope to do even more focused hackfests in the near future. Email us if you are interested in hosting a hackfest!

If you'd like to get involved with hidden service development, you can contact the hackfest team. Our nicks on IRC OFTC are armadev, asn, dgoulet, kernelcorn, mrphs, ohmygodel, robgjansen, saint, special, sysrqb, and syverson.

Until next time!

JOIN US - Tor Project Boston Hack Day Event - March 20, 2013 - Hosted by Boston University's Department of Computer Science

Join us for a unique public hack day event where you will have an opportunity to work in a highly collaborative, interactive environment with Tor's team of technology and research experts. Topics for the day will be determined by the attendees; so bring your ideas, questions, projects and technical expertise with you! Continental breakfast will be provided.

Wednesday, March 20, 2012
9 am until 5 pm
BU Computer Science Dept, 111 Cummington Mall, Boston, MA - ROOM 148
Directions: http://www.bu.edu/cs/about/directions-and-contact/

Hosted by Boston University's Department of Computer Science

For more information or questions contact, execdir@torproject.org.

Florence Hackfest Thanks

Thanks to all who attended and helped make the hackfest in Florence a success. Around 50 people stayed for the two day event. We heard from a team working on a free hardware and software (firmware to drivers) laptop prototype, some Italian legal experts with regards to anonymity, encryption, and chilling effects used to great length in the country, plus a number of Italian hackers from EuroPython 2012 interested in Tor (and vice versa).

And a big thanks to the Università degli Studi di Firenze, Il Progetto Winston Smith and Arturo for their translations, coordinations, and general welcoming attitude to Italy.

2012 Florence Hackfest

On July 5 and 6 we are holding an open hackfest at the Università degli Studi di Firenze in Florence, Italy.

Please attend if you have some interest in programming, advocacy, marketing, or (network security/anonymity/computer science/etc) research with Tor, or are willing to be persuaded to entertain an interest. :) Tor's a small project (in terms of number of developers) that could really use your help.

The majority language will be English, but there will be some Italian speakers at the hackfest.

More details can be found on the Florence Hackfest wiki page.

See you in Florence!

UW Hackfest Thanks!

Thanks to the 30+ people that showed up across our hackfests on Wednesday and Thursday. We talked about obfsproxy, torouter, civil liberties and tor, and Andrew spent four-plus hours explaining tor, hidden services, and online privacy risks to a bunch of tor-curious people. It's clear the ice cream sundae/gourmet popcorn bar was a huge success, with people literally squealing their love for Tor (I'm sure it was tor and not the ice cream ;). Thanks to PrivateOnion for writing a song. @INTLRevolver started a twibbon campaign and shared some womens' privacy issues with us and how Tor can help.

And a final thank you to Mel and Kar at the U of Washington for their support, logistics, and general awesomeness overall.

University of Washington Open Hackfest

We're having an open hackfest at the University of Washington on Feb 22nd and 23rd; we may hold an additional open hackfest day on Friday, Feb 24th if we feel the demand. This meeting is largely possible due to the support of the UW Security and Privacy Research Lab.

This hackfest coincides with our Winter Developer summit and many Tor developers will be in attendance. As I write Tor developers have already started their travel to Seattle and many will stick around for the following week.

We'd love to welcome everyone interested in attending. We'd especially like people to feel welcome to discuss ideas or proposals, who want to know what's happening in the world of censorship resistance, anonymity, privacy and related topics. Most of all if you're prepared to write software, we're planning to do quite a lot of that next week as well.

So please, come join us on the UW campus for our winter open hack fest! Times and locations are available on our wiki page about the open hack fest.

A visit to Iceland

I spent two days in Iceland discussing Tor and freedom of information with various people. I talked to a few people, including a member of Icelandic Parliament, about the International Modern Media Institute, http://immi.is/. The goals of IMMI are to secure free speech and defining new operating principles for the global media. They are starting with Iceland and moving on to the world. They already have much success in Iceland, but are running into issues of scale and funding. They could use some help.

The second day I talked to the computer forensics team from the National Police of Iceland about Tor, http://www.logreglan.is/. We discussed all things Tor and their experiences with it. Apparently there are 'computer specialists' traveling Europe talking to law enforcement (for great profit) disparaging any technology that provides security and privacy to citizens as 'for child abuse and organized crime'. These people neglect to mention that all technologies are dual usage and the human behind it determines the good or bad usage of the technology. One of the officers mentions that no one talks about crowbar crime, but everyone is talking about computer crime as if humans aren't involved. Overall, it was a great discussion lasting a few hours.

I then head over to work with the people from 1984, https://1984.is/. They are one of the largest hosting providers in Iceland. And thanks to them, we now have http://torproject.is hosted in the country. I learned more about the physical infrastructure of the Internet in Iceland. We discussed ways to increase competition now that the Iceland Govt bailed out the company that owns nearly all of the fiber in the country. Imagine a country with fiber everywhere (already true in Iceland) and treating it like the road infrastructure with any provider getting access to it. Now mix in successful freedom of expression laws from IMMI.

That night I talked about Tor to the only hackerspace in Iceland at their beer and crypto night at Hakkavélin, http://hakkavelin.is/. Someone showed up and recorded my entire talk until their battery ran out. kapteinnkrokur posted the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOayRK48vdE. I covered Tor topics, life under surveillance, and some more advanced topics relating to bridges, ssl filtering, and attempted DHT directory info over Tor. Afterwards, many went out to a bar to talk more until 2 AM. I had a great chat with Bjarni and Ewelina from PageKite, https://pagekite.net/, about Tor marketing, supporting privacy enhancing technology, and peer to peer collaboration for all.

Iceland is a fantastic country and the people are great. I hope to spend more time there, as soon as the volcanoes stop disrupting flights.

Thank you to Björgvin, Birgitta, Berglind, and Mörður for arranging meetings and hosting me for the two days.

2011 Stockholm Hackfest Thanks

Thanks to everyone for attending today. We had some great discussions about The Haven Project, Economic Association for tor relay operators, telecomix, pluggable transports, TAILS, IPv6, sandboxing flash, and of course, tor itself.

And a great bit of gratitude to iis.se for promoting and hosting the hackfest, and for providing food. https://www.iis.se/blogg/hackare-intar-se and the followup, https://www.iis.se/internet-for-alla/reportage/teknikreportage/hackare-i...


Stockholm Hackfest, May 14th

We're holding a Tor hackfest on Saturday, May 14th at Ringvägen 100, Stockholm.

We'll be starting at 10 AM . Thanks to https://www.iis.se/ for hosting the event. We're hoping to provide pizza and drinks for lunch. We have a wiki page available to get an idea of what food you want and any topics you wish to see discussed. https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/wiki/2011StockholmHackfest

Please attend if you have some interest in programming, advocacy, marketing, or research with Tor, or are willing to be persuaded to entertain an interest. :) Tor's a small project (in terms of number of developers) that could really use your help.

Hope to see you on Saturday!

Hackfest Thanks

Thank you to all who showed up for the hackfest at MIT on Saturday the 19th. Roughly 50 people attended the event at some point throughout the day. People traveled from the local area, Maine, New York, Connecticut, and one person rearranged their flights from California to hack with us. The free pizza, drinks, and donuts were provided to all thanks to some generous attendees.

And a final thank you to the Center for Future Civic Media who once again offered the facilities and support for our hackfest.

Now that you've met us, are interested in helping the world, and want to learn more, here are some ideas on getting involved: http://www.torproject.org/getinvolved/volunteer


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