1. What is Herbivore?
A peer-to-peer, self-organizing anonymous communication system that
is resilient to subversion. Herbivore conceals the identity of communicating
parties, ensuring that eavesdroppers with unlimited wiretapping abilities
cannot determine the source or destination of a message.
2. What can I do with Herbivore?
Anonymously share files and instant message with everyone else on the
network. Herbivore protects the identities of both people who distribute
and those who retrieve information.
3. Why would anyone want to be anonymous?
Anonymity and privacy guarantees are critical for many real-world applications.
Whether casting a ballot in a voting booth or getting tested for certain
medical conditions, people expect that the transaction itself will not
reveal their identity. Many other applications require privacy, where
participants release their identity to parties of their choice, but
need to cloak it from unauthorized interceptors. For instance, whistle
blowers, witnesses, patients, press sources, attorneys and clients,
among many others, call for private communication channels.
4. How much privacy do I currently have on
Very little. Every time you go online, you reveal the network address
of the computer you are using. Internet service providers can then map
these network addresses to physical locations, for example your house,
a library, etc.
5. What are the goals of Herbivore?
Strong Anonymity: The system should provide computationally
insurmountable mechanisms to guard the identities of participants.
Herbivore ensures that even an adversary that listens to all communication
on the network cannot determine the sender or recipient of a message.
High Scalability: The communication protocol
should achieve performance that does not degrade significantly as
more participants join the network. Herbivore self-organizes to
efficiently build large anonymous communication networks.
Robustness: The protocol should be resilient
to manipulation and shutdown. The system does not require central
servers or trusted agents. Herbivore makes it difficult for attackers
to shutdown the network or to launch attacks targeted at specific
6. Why is it called Herbivore?
In 2000, to aid criminal investigations, the FBI began using
to monitor electronic communications on the Internet. The name
Herbivore is a gentle reminder that there is a fine line
between law enforcement and harassment.
7. How is Herbivore different from other anonymous communication schemes, like Freenet and Gnutella?
Currently, all other anonymous communication systems that have
been implemented on a large scale are based on source-rewriting.
Messages are routed through several intermediary nodes who forward the
message, masking the identity of the original sender. In practice this
method provides a reasonable level of anonymity. However, diligent observers
that monitor traffic within and around the anonymizing network can use
statistical traffic analysis to compromise identities. Herbivore is resilient
to this kind of attack: Eavesdroppers with unlimited wiretapping abilities
cannot determine the source or destination of a message sent in Herbivore.
8. What are DC-Nets and how are they related to Herbivore?
Originally proposed by David Chaum in 1988, DC-Nets
elegantly facilitate anonymous communication, and represent a fundamental
building block of Herbivore.
9. How did Herbivore get started?
In late 2001, Emin Gün Sirer, Mark Robson and Milo Polte proposed
an anonymous communication system that partitions the global network
into local anonymizing DC-Nets. The following summer, based on the divide-and-conquer
approach advocated in CliqueNet, Sharad Goel began developing Herbivore.
Coincidentally, all four researchers were at Cornell University and
started collaborating on Herbivore later that year.
10. Are anonymous communication systems ethical?
As with many technologies, there is the possibility of misuse. By providing
a medium through which individuals can express their ideas without fear
of persecution, we hope that anonymous communication systems will in
the end have a positive impact.
11. What do people at large think about anonymous communication systems ?
New Jersey considered passing a bill that would make anonymous
communication illegal by forcing all forum participants to
register their full name and address. The resulting reaction
was fierce. It didn't help that Founding Fathers had used
anonymous letters in newspapers to build their base.