HORNET is an anonymized and accelerated onion routing network; the name is an acronym for high speed onion routing network.
Similarly to the better-known TOR browser, HORNET helps enable anonymous web surfing, hidden service sites and deep Web sites, but at faster speeds due to a more efficient network design. Unlike TOR, HORNET can be integrated with a network by deploying it on an Intel software router. HORNET does not have its own dedicated browser but requires the installation of a service along with the configuration of an existing browser.
HORNET claims better anonymity at faster speeds. The research team’s abstract states: “Our system uses only symmetric cryptography for data forwarding yet requires no per-flow state on intermediate nodes. This design enables HORNET nodes to process anonymous traffic at over 93 Gb/s. HORNET can also scale as required, adding minimal processing overhead per additional anonymous channel.” TOR's overlay network, on the other hand, has issues with scalability and performance, which translates into slower browsing.
Anonymized networks are designed, in general, for individuals who are concerned by global surveillance programs and those circumventing Internet censorship. HORNET can also help protect users who need to communicate sensitive information such as journalists, whistleblowers, political dissidents, spies, law enforcement officials and business professionals. Anonymized networks can provide an additional layer of security for online banking and purchasing, as well as other sensitive online activities.
Anonymized browsers are also used by cybercriminals for illicit activities including – but not limited to -- distribution of materials such as illegal pornography, malware, drugs and black market goods.
HORNET was developed by researchers Chen Chen, Daniele Enrico Asoni, David Barrera, George Danezis and Adrian Perrig at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.