300 million people use peer-to-peer file sharing systems every month. However, with privacy being a growing concern among todays users, the need for an anonymised file sharing system is evident. This is the basis for Sam’s Part II Project, Anonymous Peer-to-Peer File Sharing.
Sam introduced us to the basic concepts of file sharing, both client-server and P2P methods. BitTorrent uses the peer to peer method which has the advantage of having higher availability, reliability and usually providing faster download speeds. There are many uses for file sharing, such as downloading music from Spotify or downloading games via apps like Steam (Eduard was particularly surprised to learn that Steam uses a P2P system). Sam argued that although these services are useful, there are many reasons to provide privacy and it is very easy for a malicious user to discover peers using the service.
There are methods to stay anonymous when using P2P services such as using a VPN to connect, or using TOR. However, a good VPN is usually not free and usage can still be traced back to you, the user. TOR is slow and is incompatible with many clients. As a solution to this problem, Sam has implemented a system that provides this desired anonymity using relays. The program first sets up a route to each peer and a tracker encrypts each layer; this is essential for the relays to know where to forward the data. BitTorrent is run once the route is set up, and data is encrypted using an end-to-end key.
Sam demoed the project by showing us the transfer of a picture from one location to another on his computer and as a closing remark outlined some limitations to this approach. Unfortunately the tracker provides a central point of weakness to the system and must be trusted itself.
Sam’s project demonstrates a possible solution to meet the privacy concerns of today’s users whilst still allowing them to download all their songs and movies. Best of luck with your project Sam!