Monthly News Update (Feb 2018)

katzenpost monthly news


This is our first edition of katzenpost monthly news. I’ll be summarizing recent events from our first hackfest in Athens in early December 2017 to the present.

What we did in Athens:

  • setup a test mix network
  • remote collaboration with Yawning Angel to fix bugs and add features to the server side
  • wrote some basic installation documentation
  • Moritz created and deployed the katzenpost website with glossary and FAQ
  • explored technical issues related to python and java language bindings to golang libraries
  • discussed at length the possibilies for various kinds of mixnet clients
  • Vincent wrote a prototype android instant messenger client
  • met with the GrNet people and told them how to install a katzenpost mix network and answered their questions
  • meskio and kaliy added an external user db interface for Provider authentication
  • meskio wrote prototype python clients for testing purposes
  • we had many group discussion about mix network design
  • special guest visitor: George Kadianakis from Tor Project

Since that time we have been working on our PKI specification. Nick Mathewson sent us a six page review of our spec and Yawning sent a two page reply; both of these e-mails contain lots of design details and have been useful in our editing of the spec thus far:

Additionally since the Athens hackfest I, masala and Yawning have made changes so that interaction with the nonvoting PKI to NOT use HTTP but instead uses our Noise based wire protocol (which incidentally uses a Post Quantum hybrid key exchange). The PKI spec has been updated with these new changes. If you are curious about our wire protocol you can read about it here:

During the Brussels hackfest we:

Since the Brussels hackfest, Masala and I visited Claudia Diaz and Tariq Elahi at KU Leuven to discuss mix network designs. In particular we asked various questions about the AQMs used in the Katzenpost server side and later got clarification from Yawning. We also discussed mix network tuning and learned that the preferred method of tuning mixnets is to run lots of simulations and use different kinds of analysis to determine an appropriate set of tuning parameters.

During this discussion Tariq mentioned that their simulations are likely not using the exact same AQMs as Katzenpost server side. We decided that these simulations could be executed using our “mixnet emulator” which is called kimchi. It runs an entire katzenpost mix network and nonvoting authority in a single golang process.

We patiently await for a response to our query: “What features should the mixnet emulator/simulator have?”

Yawning recently implemented the keyserver:

and the mailproxy client side for interacting with the keyserver:

Since then Yawning’s focus has been to improve server side stability and performance. You can see his task list here:

Masala and I have been working on writing a voting directory authority server.

Currently our test mixnet works because Yawning has not only written most of the code but he also wrote a nonvoting Directory Authority PKI. However, the nonvoting PKI is not suitable for production use where a decentralized design should be used to achieve the desired security properties.

Beyond our officially sanctioned work on this project, and in my free time, I’ve been exploring other use-cases for mixnets. I’ve been thinking about “strong location hiding properties”. What I came up with is a kind of kaetzchen dead drop service where you can retreive messages from a remote Provider. The client would never directly interact with the remote Provider but instead only uses the mixnet to retrieve messages.