A multi-agent marketplace, MAGNET (Multi-AGent Negotiation Testbed), is a promising solution for conducting online combinatorial auctions. The trust model of MAGNET is somewhat different from other on-line auction systems since the marketplace, which mediates all communications between agents, acts as a partially trusted third party. We identify the security vulnerabilities of MAGNET and present a solution that overcomes these weaknesses. Our solution makes use of three different existing technologies with standard cryptographic techniques: a publish/subscribe system to provide simple and general messaging, time-release cryptography to provide guaranteed non-disclosure of the bids, and anonymous communication to hide the identity of the bidders until the end of the auction. Using these technologies, we successfully minimize the trust on the market as well as increase the security of the whole system. The protocol that we have developed can be adapted for use by other agent-based auction systems, that use a third party to mediate transactions.
- Electronic auctions
- Multi-agent systems