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PANORAMIX Report Summary

Project ID: 653497
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.7.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PANORAMIX (Privacy and Accountability in Networks via Optimized Randomized Mix-nets)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2016-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Communicating in a network such as the Internet has the -seemingly- inherent characteristic that anyone observing the network (e.g., a service provider) will get to know the metadata for each connection (including the source and destination, length and size of conversation or data transfer etc.).

This information is a resource that can be exploited and its misuse may have serious implications for the privacy of European citizens especially given the global nature of the Internet. PANORAMIX will develop a European infrastructure for secure communications based on mix-nets which are cryptographic overlays for network communication with the capability to eliminate meta-data information. Furthermore, even though they are a privacy-enhancing technology, mix-nets can also have suitable accountability features by design.

PANORAMIX comes as a response to the need for privacy in a highly connected world where personal information becomes increasingly an item of high valuation and exchange between companies and governments and aims at empowering European citizens in terms of managing their privacy.

In a nutshell the goals of PANORAMIX are the following.

First, the design, reference and production implementation of a secure mix net system that is freely available, fully documented and interoperable.

Second, the field demonstration of the system in three use-cases: e-voting (via partner GRNET), big data collection (via partner SAP) and private messaging (via partners Mobile Vikings and Greenhost).

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The work performed in the project in the first year can be categorized as follows.

* Investigation of the notion of a mix-net and the supporting technology that is required. This activity is reflected in WP3 and deals with modeling, design and analysis of mix-net systems. The activity of the consortium was quite expansive and is documented in the dissemination report deliverable D2.3. A number of models were considered and evaluated as well as novel concepts in the setting of mix-nets and supporting technologies (including zero-knowledge proofs and blockchain protocols) were investigated.

* Specification of the PANORAMIX mix-net. A substantial amount of effort was invested by the project consortium in order to converge to a specification of the PANORAMIX system. This is reflected in Initial Requirements, Design, and Prototype deliverable D4.1. This document provides background on mix-nets and discusses the design space and the use-cases that are the focal points of the project. It also provides the general API of the mix-net code base to be developed, and provides details of the developmental methodology, tools, and prototyping plan that will be followed.

* Applying the PANORAMIX system for e-voting and e-mail messaging. These two applications represent quite opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of requirements for a mix-net. Specifically, e-voting requires mixing that is highly robust, i.e., messages should be guaranteed to be delivered as deposited without any omissions or additions, while responsiveness can be quite low and is acceptable to have high latency in e-mail message delivery. On the other hand, e-mail communication has lower requirements in terms of robustness while message delivery is preferable to be quite fast. Deliverables D5.1 and D7.1 outlined the way we envision PANORAMIX would be applied in the setting of e-voting and e-mail communication.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

In the first year of the project, we published a number of works that review and describe the state of the art in existing shuffle protocols. We studied efficient yet secure non-interactive Zero-Knowledge shuffle protocols and we researched initial design options for mix-nets. We thoroughly surveyed all key mix-net designs, shuffles and anonymity systems and categorized them in terms of their path selection procedures. This directly informs the design options for the Panoramix mixnet system.

In terms of going beyond the state of the art, we introduced “HORNET”, a novel and high-speed system based on onion-routing; this work included a complete review and comparison of previous designs and their performance. This informed Panoramix design options for low-latency anonymization. We also developed “XYZ”, a anonymous mix-net system for private messaging which provides a design direction for perfectly anonymous person to person low bandwidth communication. We also published novel non-interactive zero-knowledge proofs and arguments with novel efficiency and security characteristics. Finally we studied definitions of privacy. Our work on private statistics collection puts forth novel definitions of privacy inspired from differential privacy and traditional game based cryptographic definitions; in the same deliverable we evaluated the utility that can be achieved despite different levels of privacy protection.

This exploration of the design space for the PANORAMIX system provided the necessary input for the design specification of our mixnet. Following this pathway in the remaining of the project the PANORAMIX team will produce a generic mix-net infrastructure embodied in open source code and an API. The system will provide a way for applications to minimize surreptitious collection of data. Therefore, any data released by the user will not be at risk of being passively captured from network traffic. In order to showcase the technology, we will pilot three user friendly and economically viable implementations (e-voting, cloud data-handling, and messaging) that will utilize the generic mix networking architecture. We note that each of these implementations has existing customers as well as the backing for-profit companies that are PANORAMIX consortium members who believe that a mix-net will generate positive business cases for their product. These pilots will pave the way for more businesses to adopt the PANORAMIX software which will be maintained and supported by an online community long after the project has terminated, in this way maximizing the wider societal impact of our work.

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