The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the folks who brought you the internet, are looking to create an advanced, next generation, Dark Net it was reported on Tuesday. The project will build on the lessons of Tor, the current protocol powering today's Dark Net.
Funding for the project, which began in 2014, is necessary due to threats from governments and hackers around the world have pushed Tor’s decade-old hidden service technology to its limits. To stay ahead in the security race, Tor is building the next-generation Dark Net in part with funding from DARPA.
The funding comes as part of DARPA’s Memex project, a “ground-breaking” search engine designed to be better than commercial titans like Google at searching the Deep Web and other less visible terrain for the U.S. intelligence, law enforcement, and military. DARPA is partnered with universities like Carnegie Mellon, NASA, private research firms, and several Tor Project developers to construct Memex.
DARPA is currently funding multiple projects aimed at improving Tor’s hidden services across “1-3 years,” Tor’s director of communications Kate Krauss stated. Tor declined to provide more details on the grant, like its monetary value and terms.
Roger Dingledine, Tor’s project leader, gave examples of nearly a dozen projects over the last year that utilized DARPA’s funding to address recent attacks on some of the Dark Net’s most famous websites.
These attacks, which started in March, targeted several hidden services with a unique yet simple cyberattack that slowed the entire Tor network and took specific sites offline for more than a week. The move inspired much worry about the security of many Tor users. Some of the sites are still having problems returning to normalcy.
The Memex project is looking at new technology development, fixes and upgrades, and in-depth statistics on hidden services to fund via grants.
The Dark Net road map is ambitious. Tor plans to double the encryption strength of a hidden service’s identity key and to allow for offline storage for that key, a major security upgrade.
Next generation hidden services will be able to run from multiple hosts in order to better deal with denial of service attacks and high traffic in general. This represents a major power boost that further closes the gap between the Dark Net and normal websites.
Led by lead data scientist Christopher White, Memex is explicitly not aimed at de-anonymizing any Tor user or “accessing information not intended to be publicly available,” according to a recent DARPA blog post.