Namecoin and Anonymity

phelix
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Namecoin and Anonymity

Post by phelix » Sun Sep 21, 2014 10:33 am

There are some discussions going on behind the scenes. I would like everybody to participate. In particular I would like to see comments from biolizard and sudoquai.

Is Namecoin anonymous? Is it not? Please discuss. Stay polite. I will try to moderate should it become necessary.
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sudoquai
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Re: Namecoin and Anonymity

Post by sudoquai » Sun Sep 21, 2014 12:45 pm

Thank you for your invite Phelix. I've replied some words to you already, you can forward it, if you like. As long as we stay polite and honest i am more then willing to discuss first and depending on the discussion to find a good solution, which everybody would be fine with it, lets see if its possible on a polite base.

I will take part the next days - have some work left at the moment, which i have to solve first.

Regards,

Sudo
NameID: id/sudo.wonder >>> Namecoin @ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/namecoin.org

signup292
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Post by signup292 » Sun Sep 21, 2014 11:21 pm

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Last edited by signup292 on Sun Feb 22, 2015 1:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

John Kenney
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Re: Namecoin and Anonymity

Post by John Kenney » Mon Sep 22, 2014 2:39 am

It's not anonymous at all, it has the same problems as Bitcoin, but worse due to a smaller network. All transactions are recorded in a public database. You don't need to be a state to unmask users, just a hobbyist with a few hours to spare could unmask most users, or at least track it back to where they got their namecoins.

Saying it is anonymous is an outright lie intended to mislead people, it's fraudulent, spamming it to every Facebook, Google+ page & now on Twitter is appalling. I really don't want to be involved with an organisation that sets out to defraud people, or spams on such a large scale. It ruins any chance Namecoin has of having any decent reputation.

If you're going to say it could be anonymous then you have to explain how to get around the problems on this page: https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Anonymity I don't think the Bitcoin people did a great job on that page either, I'm not comfortable with how optimistic they seem about it.

domob
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Re: Namecoin and Anonymity

Post by domob » Mon Sep 22, 2014 6:24 am

It has basically "the same" level of anonymity/pseudonymity that Bitcoin has - if done correctly and with a lot of diligence, it can be used quite anonymously. But this involves things like mining coins yourself, buying them with anonymous exchange accounts for mixed bitcoins or at least having a couple of exchange accounts and sending coins through all of them before buying a name with them. And of course not using the same wallet to register "anonymous" and "not anonymous" names, as well as not leaking any information in the names themselves (IP address of your hosting provider?) and using Tor to connect to the Namecoin network. Given how Silkroad and DPR were identified (by quite heavy mistakes), I believe that if DPR had used Namecoin and really known what he was doing (not sure about that in his case), then Namecoin itself wouldn't have been the weakest link.

That being said, I think that Namecoin shouldn't considered even close to anonymous for average users. And thus, also not advertised as it. Those who know enough to use it "somewhat anonymously" will already know about the exact properties in detail. Those who learn about it in social media channels will instead make mistakes and compromise their anonymity.
BTC: 1domobKsPZ5cWk2kXssD8p8ES1qffGUCm | NMC: NCdomobcmcmVdxC5yxMitojQ4tvAtv99pY
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phelix
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Re: Namecoin and Anonymity

Post by phelix » Mon Sep 22, 2014 8:16 am

+1 to all the above

Browsing .bit domains should be viewed separately from using Namecoin itself. Anonymous browsing of .bit is rather difficult to achieve as of today, especially since FreeSpeechMe does not yet work with TorBrowser.

On the other hand side I believe Namecoin/.bit is an improvement in terms of privacy compared to the legacy domain registration and browsing system.
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virtual_master
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Re: Namecoin and Anonymity

Post by virtual_master » Mon Sep 22, 2014 9:32 am

phelix wrote: On the other hand side I believe Namecoin/.bit is an improvement in terms of privacy compared to the legacy domain registration and browsing system.
Exactly.
So in this sense for those who are knowing only the legacy domain system and they are waiting an answer of YES/NO if it is anonymous to answer with YES (it is anonymous) is most closed to the truth. So I wouldn't call fraudulent those who are giving this short answer in some situations. For those who are aware of the full scale of deanonymization attacks which some globally acting companies and organizations can do, the best answer for them could be NO. It depends of the context of the discussion.
However no answer could give a 100% correct representation of the facts because the question is very complex.
phelix wrote:+1 to all the above
Browsing .bit domains should be viewed separately from using Namecoin itself. Anonymous browsing of .bit is rather difficult to achieve as of today, especially since FreeSpeechMe does not yet work with TorBrowser.
To give a more precise answer this could be a first step to differentiate between coin transactions like in Bitcoin and domain(or other name) operations or domain browsing.
Coin transactions are very similar with Bitcoin and they are a lot of topics about their anonymity so I wouldn't go in detail.
Domain and other name specific issues are more characteristic to Namecoin.


If we would like to determine the property anonymity of a system I would say it is not an additive value(like weight or length) so to speak about this property without comparing to other systems doesn't have sense at all. It is like hardness. Is bread hard ? Yes it is compared to butter but it is not compared to steel. Even if we would associate to the anonymity a value it would only mean that a system with a higher anonymity value is more anonymous but this value wouldn't say much alone.
However the situation is even more complex as we could cut the question in more details and we could find out that different systems could have a higher anonymity by an attack and lower by a different type of deanonymization attack.
Is egg harder then bread ? Outside yes but inside not.

Now how to make a short and best possible answer which could be valid for all ? Here we should take in consideration what is the specific purpose of Namecoin and which is the dominant domain/identity system.
Namecoin is definitely more censorship resistant but can be also more anonymous(if used properly) then the most other systems.
http://namecoinia.org/
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cassini
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Re: Namecoin and Anonymity

Post by cassini » Mon Sep 22, 2014 7:34 pm

domob wrote:if done correctly and with a lot of diligence, it can be used quite anonymously. But this involves things like mining coins yourself, buying them with anonymous exchange accounts for mixed bitcoins or at least having a couple of exchange accounts and sending coins through all of them before buying a name with them. And of course not using the same wallet to register "anonymous" and "not anonymous" names, as well as not leaking any information in the names themselves (IP address of your hosting provider?) and using Tor to connect to the Namecoin network.
Agreed on all counts. I'd even go a step further and create one wallet.dat file for each name. This seems a tedious task at first glance but it is much less trouble than the nightmare of trying to keep your anonymous names strictly isolated within one wallet. See below.
domob wrote:It has basically "the same" level of anonymity/pseudonymity that Bitcoin has
I disagree completely. On top of the pseudonymity inherited from Bitcoin, names in Namecoin have at least two levels of cross-connection characteristics. An example for the first level of interconnection: you reserve three names, A, B and C. You use only one wallet.dat file. You want to keep name A anonymous and isolated from B and C. To be able to reserve name A you buy 0.023 NMC (just for arguments sake) at an exchange. You buy 1.00 NMC for reserving the names B and C at another exchange. Eventually your client software creates 9 new NMC addresses (NMC_addr_1 to NMC_addr_9 in the graphics below; in real life there are a few more addresses involved). After a while you make one little mistake and you accidentally create this situation:
nmcpseudonymity.png
nmcpseudonymity.png (64.17 KiB) Viewed 2326 times
Even worse, you don't notice that all of a sudden all 9 addresses are interconnected. An attacker who knows only one NMC address, e.g. NMC_addr_7, or one piece of public information in your non-anonymous names B or C, is able to inspect all three names and 9 addresses.

The second level of Namecoin's cross-connectivity is more obvious. As domob already indicated, if you have names with identical information in the value field then everybody may guess that these names belong to the same person. The devil is in the details, though. Carefully inspect your name's name_history data and you'll discover amazing details you revealed in the past. The blockchain never forgets.
Last edited by cassini on Sun Nov 16, 2014 4:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.

sudoquai
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Re: Namecoin and Anonymity

Post by sudoquai » Mon Sep 22, 2014 7:46 pm

virtual_master wrote:
phelix wrote: On the other hand side I believe Namecoin/.bit is an improvement in terms of privacy compared to the legacy domain registration and browsing system.
Exactly.
So in this sense for those who are knowing only the legacy domain system and they are waiting an answer of YES/NO if it is anonymous to answer with YES (it is anonymous) is most closed to the truth. So I wouldn't call fraudulent those who are giving this short answer in some situations. For those who are aware of the full scale of deanonymization attacks which some globally acting companies and organizations can do, the best answer for them could be NO. It depends of the context of the discussion.
However no answer could give a 100% correct representation of the facts because the question is very complex.
phelix wrote:+1 to all the above
Browsing .bit domains should be viewed separately from using Namecoin itself. Anonymous browsing of .bit is rather difficult to achieve as of today, especially since FreeSpeechMe does not yet work with TorBrowser.
To give a more precise answer this could be a first step to differentiate between coin transactions like in Bitcoin and domain(or other name) operations or domain browsing.
Coin transactions are very similar with Bitcoin and they are a lot of topics about their anonymity so I wouldn't go in detail.
Domain and other name specific issues are more characteristic to Namecoin.


If we would like to determine the property anonymity of a system I would say it is not an additive value(like weight or length) so to speak about this property without comparing to other systems doesn't have sense at all. It is like hardness. Is bread hard ? Yes it is compared to butter but it is not compared to steel. Even if we would associate to the anonymity a value it would only mean that a system with a higher anonymity value is more anonymous but this value wouldn't say much alone.
However the situation is even more complex as we could cut the question in more details and we could find out that different systems could have a higher anonymity by an attack and lower by a different type of deanonymization attack.
Is egg harder then bread ? Outside yes but inside not.

Now how to make a short and best possible answer which could be valid for all ? Here we should take in consideration what is the specific purpose of Namecoin and which is the dominant domain/identity system.
Namecoin is definitely more censorship resistant but can be also more anonymous(if used properly) then the most other systems.
I think Domob's and Virtualmaster's reply comes very close to the answer if Namecoin is anonymous. So the honest answer if Namecoin is anonymous would be "yes" (assuming they are no pilot errors).

Additionally i want to add, that there is nothing between anonymous and not anonymous. Even in the case the real IP would be discovered, you would need the help of the government by asking the provider to reveal the person/organization behind it. This would be the case if they are assuming illegal activities in association with this IP address.

The most interesting thing is, that governments and people who live within these governments, doesn't have a unified law. This means, what is legal in one state is illegal in an other state, this is a general problem in the internet and the main problem. However they are laws which are nearly the same in every country and this is a good thing.

Whats does this mean? If a thing exists, it doesn't help to close the eyes or refuse talking about it in the hope it will vanish by doing so. So what is the real problem behind it ?

It think the answer is easy: the fear that Namecoin can be used for illegal activities by using it anonymous. I understand that this is an issue maybe, especially for people in the source development of Namecoin. The problem is that we all have to respect the freedom of speech and freedom of press as long it is legal. It doesn't help to make pressure and would only support the Streisand effect.

So how can we solve this? I could talk with the team helping at Facebook and maybe with the other social media operators just to remove the sentence "anonymous" from it - a minor thing and will take some time. But to underline it: Not talking about something, doesn't mean something does not exist. Also it could involve a bad taste talking about free speech and not supporting it really. Also it is a problem at all, because some people always say "this is a good thing" while other say "this is bad". This is a general "problem" in every democracy, which is solved by making elections, asking a statistically significant amount of people (speaking in terms of mathematics) and by orientating to the majority.

I would encourage an entry in the Namecoin Wiki: "Is Namecoin anonymous ?", giving a honest answer AND to add a disclaimer that the Namecoin development, doesn't encourage or support using it illegal. I could support this, by adding it on Facebook as well and talking with the other operators to support this idea. Would this be a good solution?

Additionally i would like to add, that i would be happy if we could work better together by using a more polite and respectful way, keeping in mind, that everybody tries his/her best.

By working together we have the chance to increase the strength of Namecoin development in general. If somebody wants to help: your are most welcome. From my side i am open to improvements, suggestions or helping by writing interesting articles with reliable information, though it's not easy (not to say nearly impossible) to satisfy everybody. For example if you think that we could help you by publishing articles, asking for funding the Namecoin development team: No problem, just ask for it and let us work together. Another idea would be a direct call for additional developers, which are interested in Namecoin source development.

I would like to see this improving in the future and i am sure we will get a good consensus, by staying polite and objective.

Thanks to all people by discussing this and especially Phelix for the invitation this discussion. On this way we have the chance to improve teamwork with the target to improve Namecoin at all. Chinese people prefer to say: every bad thing includes a good thing in it.

If it helps: here is a paper from Trend Micro, analyzing Namecoin > http://www.trendmicro.com.au/cloud-cont ... omains.pdf

Regards,

Sudo.
NameID: id/sudo.wonder >>> Namecoin @ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/namecoin.org

mightbemike
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Re: Namecoin and Anonymity

Post by mightbemike » Tue Sep 23, 2014 6:37 am

Respectfully disagree. Sometimes overly simplified statements are useful, like when complicated topics need to be explained in a quick and easy way and there is nothing important to be lost by avoiding a more accurate, detailed answer. Strict accuracy can be compromised a little to make things easy. But "Namecoin is anonymous" is just not a useful statement. It is misleading and vague. The Namecoin team should avoid making these statements.

Some topics are very important to certain people. Anonymity is one of those topics. To some small group of users, getting a strictly accurate statement is extremely important. A little hedging to make things nice and easy is often useful, but is inappropriate in the case of anonymity.

To say N is A, where A is poorly defined needs to mean that N is always A, or at least N is A by default.

You can make a statement with a long string of IFs and BUTs if you're careful to be precise and give details. Or you can make the strictly accurate and most appropriate comment "Namecoin is not anonymous."
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