Secure and Robust Sensorship-Resistant Publishing Systems
Author: Marc Waldman
Advisor: David Mazieres

Abstract

In many cases, censoring documents on the Internet is a fairly simple task. Almost any published document can be traced back to a specific host, and from there to an individual responsible for the material. Someone wishing to censor this material can use the courts, threats, or other means of intimidation to compel the relevant parties to delete the material or remove the host from the network. Even if these methods prove unsuccessful, various denial of service attacks can be launched against a host to make the document difficult or impossible to retrieve. Unless a host's operator has a strong interest in preserving a particular document, removing it is often the easiest course of action.

A censorship-resistant publishing system allows an individual to publish a document in such a way that it is difficult, if not impossible, for an adversary to completely remove, or convincingly alter, a published document. One useful technique for ensuring document availability is to replicate the document widely on servers located throughout the world. However, replication alone does not block censorship. Replicas need to be protected from accidental or malicious corruption. In addition, a censorship-resistant publishing system needs to address a number of other important issues, including protecting the publisher's identity while simultaneously preventing storage flooding attacks by anonymous users.

This dissertation presents the design and implementation of two very different censorship-resistant publishing systems. The first system, Publius, is a web based system that allows an individual to publish, update, delete and retrieve documents in a secure manner. Publius's main contributions include an automatic tamper checking mechanism, a method for updating or deleting anonymously published content and methods for publishing anonymously hyperlinked content. The second system, Tangler, is a peer-to-peer based system whose contributions include a unique publication mechanism and a dynamic self-policing network. The benefits of this new publication mechanism include the automatic replication of previously published content and an incentive to audit the reliability with which servers store content published by other people. In part through these incentives, the self-policing network identifies and ejects servers that exhibit faulty behavior.