Onion routing averts prying eyes

Thursday, 5 August 2004, 1:23 PM EST

Computer programmers are modifying a communications system, originally developed by the U.S. Naval Research Lab, to help Internet users surf the Web anonymously and shield their online activities from corporate or government eyes.

The system is based on a concept called onion routing. It works like this: Messages, or packets of information, are sent through a distributed network of randomly selected servers, or nodes, each of which knows only its predecessor and successor. Messages flowing through this network are unwrapped by a symmetric encryption key at each server that peels off one layer and reveals instructions for the next downstream node.

By Ann Harrison at Wired.

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