High-speed anonymising network proposed

Image caption,
The research suggests it is possible to browse the web anonymously at high speed

A high-speed anonymous way to browse the web has been developed by security researchers.

The team, based in Zurich and London, say they have found a way to mask data that does little to slow it down.

Many anonymising systems are slow because data is encrypted many times as it travels.

But the new high-speed encryption system, Hornet, could theoretically move data around at speeds up to 93GBps, its creators say.

Review required

Hornet is conceptually similar to The Onion Router (Tor) network that many people currently use to disguise from where they are browsing the web.

Tor encrypts data as it hops randomly between the servers or relays that make up the network.

However, encrypting and decrypting data many times adds a processing overhead, which means browsing the web via Tor can be slow and frustrating.

Tor's design "suffers from performance and scalability issues: as more clients use Tor, more relays must be added to the network", said the researchers in a paper describing their work.

Hornet avoids some of the problems that limit how many users a Tor-like system can handle by changing the way it handles information about where data is going.

By removing some of this administrative overhead, it is possible to speed up the passage of data through the network's anonymising core.

In addition, they wrote, these changes made Hornet less susceptible to some of the attacks that have been used to unmask people who use Tor.

Writing on tech news site the Daily Dot, Patrick O'Neill noted that the paper describing Hornet had not yet been peer-reviewed.

"Peer review is critical to the development of research like this, and Hornet can't be considered even close to fully formed until review comes," he wrote.

"Still, research that endeavours to rethink the design of anonymity networks can lay the groundwork for the next stages of the technology."