The fight with data encryption continues as researchers at MIT CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) create a new messaging application that works similar to internet darling TOR.
Vuvuzela was named after the plastic horn used at FIFA football World cup finals in 2010 in South Africa. (Man those horns were annoying). The software itself is still in infancy, but many scientists are intrigued by its method of encrypting data.
TOR hides messages like an onion, using several different layers of encryption and sending users through random servers on the internet. Vuvuzela on the other hand takes a different approach, it uses less encryption but more false traffic.
The program takes messages that it receives from a sender then stores it inside a memory address on one of its servers (a mailbox).
Before it decides to store the content, the messages goes through an array of several different servers, that happen to send out false traffic to all of the users on the network.
The Vevuzela server then notifies the recipient that there is a message waiting for them. When the user goes to read the message, they have to go through several mailboxes to get the message’s location. Each time a connection is made through one of theses mailboxes by the recipient looking for the message, each of the servers sends out false network packets to the network.
With all of the dummy traffic, and with senders and receivers moving past their destinations to create even more dummy traffic after they have sent or obtained the actual message, you can just imagine how difficult it would be for a hacker to figure out who is talking to each other.
With so much fake traffic, and with senders and recipients moving past their destinations to intentionally create even more fake traffic after they’ve left or retrieved the actual message, you can only imagine how much data an attacker would have to sniff out before getting a clue of who’s talking to whom.
It takes about 45 seconds to send a message:
After simulating Vuvuzela for 1 million users with Amazon’s server, it showed that most messages had a lag of about 45 seconds. That is large lag for texting, but with email not being exactly instant, I think people will be able to get used to the lag. The researchers also promise a faster communication time as they work the kinks out of their code.
To read more about the technical aspect of Vuvuzela, checkout the research paper:
Vuvuzela: Scalable Private Messaging Resistant to Traffic Analysis Jelle van den Hooff, David Lazar, Matei Zaharia, and Nickolai Zeldovich.
Do you use encrypted messaging applications? How have they worked for you? Do you experience any lag? Answer in the comments below.