Tor is currently the most-important tool for online anonymity in the world, due in large part to the fact that it doesn’t have much in the way of competition, but that’s about to change thanks to a team of researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. The team has developed a new system of sending virtually untraceable messages by essentially creating a bunch of spam, and then hiding the encrypted messages inside. Known as Vuvuzela, the system gets its name from those noisy devices that you see at soccer games, in reference to the “noise” that the system creates to hide your messages.
Given recent news that popular online anonymity tool Tor might not be as completely secure as many of us had assumed, we were intrigued to see that some researchers at MIT are now claiming that they’ve created a way to send completely “untraceable” text messages. A team at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has developed a text messaging system that they say “provides a strong mathematical guarantee of user anonymity, while, according to experimental results, permitting the exchange of text messages once a minute or so.” The researchers have named the system “Vuvuzela,” which is a reference to the noise-making devices used by fans at football matches around the world. The idea behind the system is that, like a stadium full of vuvuzelas, it creates a lot of spurious “noise” that makes it difficult to pinpoint the sound being made by any individual vuvuzela. In its basic structure, the system sends messages through three different servers that are each designed to unwrap three different levels of encryption. While this obviously makes it harder for someone to intercept a message and to see its sender and recipient, CSAIL says that an adversary who compromises the integrity of the first server can still “know that two users whose messages reached the first server within some window of time have been talking.”