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Recently I read that Tor switched from TAP handshake requests to NTor handshake requests. This seems to improve the performance and doesn't put such a high load on relays (because of Mevade). However I couldn't find a description what TAP and NTor is. Could you provide an explanation and tell the difference between both?

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TAP is the original Tor Authentication Protocol, the one described in the original Tor paper (html). A security proof was later done by Goldberg at PET2006 and I think this is where the name of the scheme and the TAP acronym comes from.

NTor is a new protocol that aims to use faster and stronger cryptographic primitives. It is specified in proposal 216 and implemented in the Tor 0.2.4.x branch.

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