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Several private information retrieval (PIR) schemes were proposed to protect users' privacy when sensitive information stored in database servers is retrieved. However, existing PIR schemes assume that any attack to the servers does not change the information stored and any computational results. We present a novel fault-tolerant PIR scheme (called FT-PIR) that protects users' privacy and at the same time ensures service availability in the presence of malicious server faults. Our scheme neither relies on any unproven cryptographic assumptions nor the availability of tamper-proof hardware. A probabilistic verification function is introduced into the scheme to detect corrupted results. Unlike previous PIR research that attempted mainly to demonstrate the theoretical feasibility of PIR, we have actually implemented both a PIR scheme and our FT-PIR scheme in a distributed database environment. The experimental and analytical results show that only modest performance overhead is introduced by FT-PIR while comparing with PIR in the fault-free cases. The FT-PIR scheme tolerates a variety of server faults effectively. In certain fail-stop fault scenarios, FT-PIR performs even better than PIR. It was observed that 35.82% less processing time was actually needed for FT-PIR to tolerate one server fault.
Date of Conference: 2002