Tom Olzak

P2P users open to privacy issues

In Privacy on April 10, 2009 at 13:09

Think behavior privacy is assured if you visit P2P sites to get that new download… think again.

Researchers at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University have identified a new “guilt-by-association” threat to privacy in peer-to-peer (P2P) systems that would enable an eavesdropper to accurately classify groups of users with similar download behavior. To thwart this threat, they have released publicly available, open source software that restores privacy by masking a user’s real download activity in such a manner as to disrupt classification.


Given the impact of this threat, the researchers developed a technique that prevents accurate classification by intelligently hiding user-intended downloading behavior in a cloud of random downloading. They showed that this approach causes an eavesdropper’s classification to be wrong the majority of the time, providing users with grounds to claim “plausible deniability” if accused.

The research team implemented this strategy in software that has already been made available as a seamless extension to the popular Vuze BitTorrent client. The software, named SwarmScreen, downloads randomly-selected content in a way that prevents eavesdroppers from distinguishing it from user-desired content. SwarmScreen allows users to control the impact of these connections on the download performance for the data they want to keep.

Source: Software improves p2p privacy by hiding in the crowd, North Western University (via

If you want to check out SwarmScreen, you can download it here.

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