IACR News item: 12 January 2021
Ishtiyaque Ahmad, Yuntian Yang, Divyakant Agrawal, Amr El Abbadi, Trinabh GuptaePrint Report
Metadata from voice calls, such as the knowledge of who is communicating with whom, contains rich information about peoples lives. Indeed, it is a prime target for powerful adversaries such as nation states. Existing systems that hide voice call metadata either require trusted intermediaries in the network or scale to only tens of users. This paper describes the design, implementation, and evaluation of Aloha, the first system for voice communication that hides metadata over fully untrusted infrastructure and scales to tens of thousands of users. At a high level, Aloha follows a template in which callers and callees deposit and retrieve messages from private mailboxes hosted at an untrusted server. However, Aloha improves message latency in this architecture, which is a key performance metric for voice calls. First, it enables a caller to push a message to a callee in two hops, using a new way of assigning mailboxes to users that resembles how a post office assigns PO boxes to its customers. Second, it innovates on the underlying cryptographic machinery and constructs a new private information retrieval (PIR) scheme, QuickPIR, that reduces the time to process oblivious access requests for mailboxes. An evaluation of Aloha on a cluster of eighty machines on AWS demonstrates that it can serve 32K users with a 99-th percentile message latency of 726 msa 7× improvement over prior work in the same threat model.
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