The Orchid Protocol is the decentralized, open-source technology for an Internet free from surveillance and censorship.
The Orchid Protocol organizes bandwidth sellers into a structured peer-to-peer (P2P) network termed the Orchid Market. Customers connect to the Orchid Market and pay bandwidth sellers in order to form a proxy chain to a specific resource on the Internet.
Unlike more common methods for sending and receiving data from the global Internet, proxy chains in the Orchid Market naturally separate information about the source of data from information about its destination; no single relay or proxy holds both pieces of information, or knows the identity of someone who does.
The structure of the Orchid Market further supports this separation of information by providing strong resistance against collusion attacks – the ability of a group of bandwidth sellers to overcome this separation of knowledge.
The Traffic Analysis Problem
Imagine you are in a cafeteria full of mathematicians and wish to send a message to your friend across the room without anyone else knowing that fact. You have not already negotiated a message passing protocol, so all implementation details must be publicly stated to everyone the room.
The Sybil Problem
The above cafeteria problem statement used physical bodies to prevent Sybil Attacks – situations in which one participant might pretend to be an arbitrarily large number of users. Unfortunately, in digital systems this approach cannot be used.
The Random Selection Problem
The above cafeteria problem statement assumed an easy method for sending a message to every other user of the system (e.g., yelling across the cafeteria). To implement a Chaumian mix which is maximally resistant to Collusion Attacks, we need to be able to select randomly from those relays who are “real.” Naively this requires being notified whenever someone joins or leaves the network. Unfortunately, in real-world P2P networks, having every user maintain such a list would result in an unacceptable amount of network traffic.
The Orchid Protocol is, at its core, a combination of the above solutions. In our approach, peers are required to produce Medallions to demonstrate their “realness”, and are then organized into a distributed P2P network termed the Orchid Market. To keep the Orchid Market participants honest, every peer checks the correctness of its neighbor’s behavior. Customers then use the Orchid Market to select random peers for Chaumian message forwarding.
To incentivize participation, the Orchid Market has Customers pay Relays and Proxies on a per-forwarded-byte basis. This is a simple idea, but of course the devil is in the details. The system is to be fully decentralized, fully autonomous, fully anonymous, and is to handle payments. Much of this design document is therefore centered on preventing attacks on customer security, the system’s performance, and the system’s economic soundness.
Although attack analysis is important, and will take up much of our time, it is ultimately no more than a necessary conceit to the context in which the market is to operate; if you find yourself “lost in the woods” we hope you will use the preceding exposition as your north star – the system’s design details are all toward realizing a real-world solution to the above trio of problems.
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