A new anonymous web browser capable of delivering encrypted data across the dark web at high speeds has been developed by security researchers.
HORNET (High-speed Onion Routing at the Network Layer), created by researchers from Zurich and London, is capable of processing anonymous traffic at speeds of more than 93 Gb/s, paving the way for what academics refer to as "internet-scale anonymity".
The research paper detailing the anonymity network reveals that it was created in response to revelations concerning widespread government surveillance that came to light through the US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.
HORNET has also been designed to overcome the flaws identified with other anonymous web browsers, such as Tor.
"Recent revelations about global-scale pervasive surveillance programs have demonstrated that the privacy of internet users worldwide is at risk," the researchers have stated.
"To protect against these and other surveillance threats, several anonymity protocols, tools, and architectures have been proposed. Tor is the system of choice for over 2 million daily users, but its design as an overlay network suffers from performance and scalability issues: as more clients use Tor, more relays must be added to the network."
Due to Tor's system of encryption between the servers or relays that make up its network, web browsing can be a much slower experience than on the open web.
What is the dark web?
The dark web is a section of the internet that requries specialist software tools to access, such as the Tor browser. Originally designed to protect privacy, it is often associated with illicit activities.
It is often confused with the deep web, which is a vast section of the open internet not indexed by search engines such as Google. The deep web comprises around 95% of the internet.
In order to achieve higher speeds, HORNET uses "source-selected paths and shared keys between endpoints and routers to support [anonymous communication]", meaning that data is not encrypted as often as Tor, but still remains anonymous.
According to its creators, HORNET is also less vulnerable to attacks that have been used to reveal the identity of Tor users. The Tor Project has declined to comment on HORNET until the research has been peer-reviewed.