Glossary

Traffic Analysis Resistance

Traffic analysis resistance means hiding traffic metadata from passive network observers. Such metadata includes:

  • message sender
  • message receiver
  • size of the message
  • time of message transmission
Mix
A mix is the primary component used to compose a mix network. Mixes receive incoming messages, mix them via some specific mix strategy which incurs a delay and then output the messages after removing one layer of encryption. Bitwise unlinkability between input and output messages is achieved using the mix network cryptographic packet format. Mixes can also output their own decoy traffic which adds further entropy to the network as detailed in the Loopix paper.
Mixnet
Mixnet is short for mix network which is a network of mixes. Fundamentally a mix network is a lossy packet switching network whose primary purpose is to achieve traffic analysis resistant properties such as location hiding, sender anonymity etc. See our FAQ for more information.
Node
A Mix or Provider instance.
User
An agent controlling a Client of the Katzenpost system.
Client
Software run by the User on its local device to participate in the Mixnet.
Provider
In the context of Loopix/Katzenpost, a Provider is a node in the mix network which is responsible for authenticating Clients, forwarding messages to the rest of the mix network on behalf of Clients and queueing messages that can later be retrieved by Clients.
PKI

Stands for Public Key Infrastructure. In the context of Panoramix is also known as the Mix Directory Authority service. In Katzenpost, Network Authority or in short Authority is the server responsible to provide the Mix Directory Authority service.

It is explained in more detail in Katzenpost Mix Network Public Key Infrastructure Specification

Note

Define PKI

Sphinx
The Sphinx cryptographic packet format is now the defacto standard for mix networks. The Mixminion mix network used SURBs to achieve sender anonymity. Mixminion inspired the design of the Sphinx packet format.
Katzenpost
A mixnet design based on the Loopix research with added message transport reliability using an ARQ protocol scheme.
Panoramix
A project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme to research mixnets for voting, statistics, and messaging, running from 2015 to 2019. See panoramix-project.eu.
Loopix
The Loopix mixnet design is described in the paper “The Loopix Anonymity System” published at USENIX 2017. Loopix uses a collection of the best mix network designs to create a messaging system that has the property of sender and receiver anonymity with respect to third party observers. Loopix uses the Sphinx cryptographic packet format, various kinds of decoy traffic and a stratified mix topology.
ARQ
ARQ means Automatic Repeat reQuest which is a protocol scheme that achieves reliability by means for ACKnowledgement protocol control messages and retransmissions. This concept comes from the packet switching network literature and is not generally associated with mix networks. There is no other way to acheive network reliability other than an ARQ scheme although there are many hybrid ARQ schemes for radio communication that use forward error correction for the purpose of performing retransmissions less frequently.
Stop and Wait ARQ
Stop and Wait ARQ is the simplest of all the ARQ protocol schemes. In the context of mix networks it also leaks the least amount of information. When comparing it to TCP, Stop and Wait ARQ has a congestion window of size one. This means that after a message is transmitted, a second message cannot be sent until the ACK for the first message is received. If the ACK message is not received within a particular time duration then the message is retransmitted.
SURB

SURB means Single Use Reply Block. SURBs are essentially a cryptographic delivery token with a short lifetime. In the Sphinx packet format SURBs have two categories of components, those used by the creator and those used by the sender. When Alice creates a SURB, she retains a decryption token and a SURB ID. Alice gives Bob a Sphinx header and a payload encryption token. Bob can use the payload encryption token to encrypt his message. Bob then attaches the Sphinx header to his ciphertext payload, thus forming a Sphinx packet which he sends through the network. Bob cannot know the destination or route of this Sphinx packet. Alice will receive the ciphertext payload and the SURB ID. She uses the SURB ID to identify which SURB decryption token to use for the ciphertext payload decryption.

SURBs have a short lifetime because mixes MUST rotate Sphinx routing keys frequently as the primary method of achieving forward secrecy. The other reason routing keys must be rotated is because each mix retains a replay cache which stores a unique tag for each Sphinx packet that traverses it. This replay cache can only be flushed after a key rotation.

Mixminion
A mix network software project whose design has been inspirational to the Katzenpost design. For more information see <https://www.mixminion.net/>.