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Blockchain- and Distributed Ledger Technologies

Keywords: Blockchains, Distributed Consensus, Peer-to-Peer Networks, Scalability

Blockchain technology plays a central role in the implementation of modern crypto-currencies, such as Bitcoin. In such systems, the Blockchain serves as a decentralized ledger in which all transactions are accounted for.  As this distributed ledger is publicly accessible and cryptographically verifiable, every node participating in the system can check the validity of each transaction on its own.

However, as blockchains and similar distributed ledger technologies (DLT) provide a variety of properties which are not only desirable in world of finance, they are of use for a much broader range of applications. For example, blockchain-based distributed systems are tolerant against byzantine faults and enable their users to reach consensus on a valid state of the shared data. The process of reaching consensus however is based on the replication of the data items through the underlying peer-to-peer networks. Therefore, the smooth operation of distributed consensus is directly linked to the performance and other properties of the peer-to-peer network. Moreover, network effects have a severe impact on the security and  privacy properties of the system.

The department for Distributed Security Infrastructures (DSI) investigates the network behavior, performance, as well as security and privacy properties of distributed ledger technologies. In this context, special emphasis is put on the interplay and the interdependence of these aspects.

Anonymous Communication on the Internet

Keywords: Congestion Control, Scheduling, Fairness, Security

Anonymity networks facilitate a self-determined protection of private data and thereby contribute to freedom of information and the freedom of speech. In recent years, systems like the Tor network have steadily grown in popularity and are now relevant to a multitude of users. At the same time, issues around the performance and scalability of these systems are now more relevant than ever before.

While ongoing research is able to improve the performance of anonymity networks like Tor, this poses an inherent challenge to its system design: Special care has to be taken not to weaken the anonymity properties of the network. This results in a fundamental question that has to be answered for anonymous Internet communication: How bad is the inherent mismatch between performance and security in such networks? Can suitable tradeoffs be found that are better prepared to handle future requirements than today's technology is?

On this basis, the department for Distributed Security Infrastructures (DSI) researches anonymous communication systems with a particular focus on how their performance and scalability properties can be improved while maintaining or strengthening the degree of anonymity they provide.

Privacy-Preserving Telemetry

Keywords: Probabilistic Data Structures, Distributed User Statistics, Data Reduction

The transformation to a digital society is data heavy. Data is recorded, processed, and forwarded on a huge scale. However, the collection of personal data is often and loudly criticized.

Probabilistic data structures enable the statistic analysis of data, while preventing the inference of personal traits. This approach additionally enables the distributed collection and processing of data, which often renders centralized data storage redundant.

The department for Distributed Security Infrastructures (DSI) explores possible applications of probabilistic data structures in the course of privacy-preserving information processing. 

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