Tithonus: A Bitcoin Based Censorship Resilient System

Authors: Ruben Recabarren (Florida Int’l University, Miami, FL 33199), Bogdan Carbunar (Florida Int’l University, Miami, FL 33199)

Volume: 2019
Issue: 1
Pages: 68–86
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/popets-2019-0005

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Abstract: Providing reliable and surreptitious communications is difficult in the presence of adaptive and resourceful state level censors. In this paper we introduce Tithonus, a framework that builds on the Bitcoin blockchain and network to provide censorship-resistant communication mechanisms. In contrast to previous approaches, we do not rely solely on the slow and expensive blockchain consensus mechanism but instead fully exploit Bitcoin’s peer-to-peer gossip protocol. We develop adaptive, fast and cost effective data communication solutions that camouflage client requests into inconspicuous Bitcoin transactions. We propose solutions to securely request and transfer content, with unobservability and censorship resistance, and free, pay-peraccess and subscription based payment options. When compared to state-of-the-art Bitcoin writing solutions, Tithonus reduces the cost of transferring data to censored clients by 2 orders of magnitude and increases the goodput by 3 to 5 orders of magnitude. We show that Tithonus client initiated transactions are hard to detect, while server initiated transactions cannot be censored without creating split world problems to the Bitcoin blockchain.

Keywords: Censorship resilient communications, covert channels, cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin

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