Topologies of Harm

Elio Grieco



Talk given at the 2024-07-01 meeting of the SouthWest Cyber Security Forum.

Slides available at:


The security of a system is an intrinsic part of its design.

The topology (or shape) of a digital system determines many of its security characteristics.


What we’re doing today isn’t working.

The biggest gains to our collective security and wellbeing can be had by switching to topologies that align with the original goals of the internet.


Let’s define a few terms that might be helpful when discussing this topic…


What Is Network Topology?

Our focus:

  • Centralized
  • Decentralized/Federated
  • Distributed
Basic Topologies


  • Certificate Authorities
  • Web of Trust
  • Trust Mapping
  • Zero Trust


  • Positional addressing
  • Content based addressing

Other Terms

  • Cloud
  • Local First Applications
  • State management
  • Replication

Parkerian Hexad

The Parkerian Hexad attributes are the following:

  • Confidentiality
  • Possession or Control
  • Integrity
  • Authenticity
  • Availability
  • Utility



Uses of identity:

  1. Authentication
  2. Authorization
  3. Discovery
  4. Routing
  5. Confidentiality (encryption)

Data Transport

  • Circuit Switched
  • Packet Switched

Data Storage

  • Replication
  • Error correcting codes
  • Encryption at rest

Maintaining State (login and conversations)

  • Login via a stateless protocol, maintain state with cookies
  • Stateful protocols
  • Synchronize state via a Merkle DAG (Git Repo) or CRDT

Advantages of Distributed Topologies

Verification of Keys/Identity

Trust Models

Knowledge Horizons

Knowledge Horizons


  • Impersonation
  • Sybil attacks
  • Man in the Middle
  • Onwership Transfer
  • Denial of Service


  • CDA 230
  • Data longevity
  • Censorship
  • Algorithmic manipulation

Currently in Use

  • Client-Server
  • Decentralized/Federated
  • Cloud
  • Pub Sub/Gossip Protocols
  • Mixnets (Tor)

Up and Coming

  • Blockchain/Distributed Ledger
  • Distributed/Peer to Peer
    • BitTorrent
    • IPFS
    • Hyphanet/Freenet
    • Open-net/Darknet/Brightnet