Posted on December 12, 2022 at 7:12 AM
According to online security experts, global cyber attacks have seen a sharp rise in the first half of 2022, with a particular focus being on DDoS attacks. One such report was published by Redware, and it is called the 2022 H1 Global Threat Analysis Report.
Experts seem to believe that the attacks have grown dramatically due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but no matter the reason, the fact is that the number of DDoS attacks, specifically, have seen a dramatic increase compared to last year. In fact, Nexusguard research indicates that the increase in H1 2022 has exceeded 75%. The only positive thing involving the attacks is that their strength has dropped by 56% for the average attack and 66.8% for maximum attacks.
Even so, the number of attacks directed at the TOR (The Onion Router) network has been impactful enough to slow it down enough for Bitcoin privacy apps to consider replacing TOR with a different solution.
Many Bitcoin privacy apps rely on the TOR network in order to conduct their operations. That means that any difficulties that TOR experiences will also directly impact the apps, which is exactly what happened in the wake of all of the DDoS incidents. Responding to the new situation, the team that operates the MercuryWallet app decided to introduce a secondary network — I2P.
I2P is a decentralized network that has been used to enable anonymous communication on the internet. It should be noted that the team did not completely replace TOR with I2P, but rather, it added support for both, allowing the app to use both networks and ignore the slowdown that TOR might experience in case of future attacks.
TOR works as an encrypted overlay to the internet, which consists of thousands of relays that allow the network traffic to progress and remain untraceable. As such, it works similarly to VPN apps, although VPN apps are typically heavily centralized, while TOR functions thanks to a group of decentralized volunteers who provide their own devices as nodes.
By forcing the traffic to travel through TOR, users send it from one node to another, making it pass through thousands of them until anyone trying to track the traffic loses track of it and the original user. Bitcoin privacy apps were using this feature of TOR to obfuscate network activity and allow privacy to the users.
However, due to a major increase in DDoS attacks on the TOR network, the network’s speeds have dropped even further than usual. TOR is usually very slow due to the fact that the traffic travels from node to node, as mentioned. Meanwhile, DDoS attacks are attacks where a large number of devices continuously and simultaneously request information until the number of requests becomes too much for the servers to handle.
They are usually used for crashing websites and networks, but TOR’s decentralized nature allows it to survive them, although not without consequences. The traffic volume caused the network to slow down due to the artificially created congestion, and along the way, it affected all the participants in the network.
On the other hand, MercuryWallet’s solution is to allow users to switch to I2P if TOR becomes unavailable or the traffic starts struggling to move through it. In other words, even if attacks on TOR continue, the wallet app will have I2P to help pick up the pace and keep the app functional.
I2P, or the Invisible Internet Project, is another decentralized, robust, and very resilient network. It relies on encryption and tunneling, which can help protect users’ privacy and maintain their anonymity. More than that, the network was specially designed to resist attacks, as well as censorship, and so far, it has proven to be a fairly reliable alternative for TOR.
MercuryWallet’s move was already praised by many who pointed out the importance of having an app be protocol-agnostic and capable of adapting to different networks and network conditions. If DDoS attacks become even more common and numerous, this will likely be a strategy that many others will have to adopt in order to survive such hostile conditions.