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Whisper: Middleware for Confidential Communication in Large-Scale Networks

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Proceedings (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2011
Author Schiavoni Valerio, Rivière Etienne, Felber Pascal,
Project MistNet: An Experimental Peer-to-peer Platform for the Cloud
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Proceedings (peer-reviewed)

Title of proceedings 31st International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems
Place Minneapolis, MN, USA
DOI 10.1109/ICDCS.2011.15


A wide range of distributed applications requires some form of confidential communication between groups of users. In particular, the messages exchanged between the users and the identity of group members should not be visible to external observers. Classical approaches to confidential group communication rely upon centralized servers, which limit scalability and represent single points of failure. In this paper, we present WHISPER, a fully decentralized middleware that supports confidential communications within groups of nodes in large-scale systems. It builds upon a peer sampling service that takes into account network limitations such as NAT and firewalls. WHISPER implements confidentiality in two ways: it protects the content of messages exchanged between the members of a group, and it keeps the group memberships secret to external observers. Using multi-hops paths allows these guarantees to hold even if attackers can observe the link between two nodes, or be used as content relays for NAT bypassing. Evaluation in real-world settings indicates that the price of confidentiality remains reasonable in terms of network load and processing costs.