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Privacy preserving censorship

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In many Western countries information is being censored or plans are being made. In Australia, the Australian Communications Minister Helen Coonan has suggested to censor the internet TV program Big Brother. Moreover two books are censored. In Belgium the Information Minister Peter Vanvelthoven is looking into “censoring websites with illegal content or with illegal services” (translated from the official Belgian memorandum) or at least to “inform customers that they entered a black listed site”. Critics remember that before 1966 it was hard in small Belgian villages to buy books that were on the Vatican “Index Librorum Prohibitorum” blacklist. Other examples of censorship in the West include the censorship: by the church of ``non-traditional’’ gospels, Hitler’s ``Mein Kampf’’ in countries as France and Germany, and the Rolling Stones performance during the 2006 superbowl on 5 February 2006 in the US. Texts describing in details the construction of atomic bombs, or other classified information, are also censored.

Whether censorship is a benefit to mankind or not, is a non-scientific topic, and therefore not the focus of the presentation. In this talk we discuss methods that can be used to censor networks. A problem with a straightforward solution is that censorship techniques might be used by terrorist or hackers who want to perform a denial of service attack. We therefore analyze how telecommunication providers can guarantee privacy on how to censor (i.e. protecting against hackers with limited resources using it to perform a denial of service) while at the same time being able to demonstrate to the authorities the capability to censor. Above is impossible when using traditional models to describe network reliability. We discuss an alternative model in which it can be achieved. We propose a zero-knowledge interactive proof for this problem.

No background information is required to be able to understand most of the lecture. This presentation is based on joint work with Yongge Wang and Mike Burmester and presented at the First International Workshop on Critical Information Infrastructures Security.


Yvo Desmedt received his Ph.D. (Summa cum Laude) from the University of Leuven, Belgium (1984). He is presently the BT Chair of Information Security at University College London, UK. He is also a courtesy professor at Florida State University. His interests include cryptography, network security and computer security. He is program chair of the Workshop on Information Theoretic Security 2007, was co-program chair of CANS 2005 , program chair of PKC 2003 , the 2002 ACM Workshop on Scientific Aspects of Cyber Terrorism and Crypto ‘94. He is editor-in-chief of the IEE Proceedings of Information Security, editor of the Journal of Computer Security, of Information Processing Letters and of Advances in Mathematics of Communications. He has given invited lectures at several conferences and workshop in 5 different continents.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Security Seminar series.

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