The Internet has undoubtedly revolutionized the way we live. It has changed the way we work, access information, travel, communicate and communicate with each other. At the same time comes the greater level of freedom that we enjoy thanks to the democratization and decentralization of information. As a result, the Internet has opened up to wider debate, analysis and scrutiny by the general public on issues that affect it and the world. Thanks to the Internet, the sphere of influence is shifting from centralized bodies and mainstream media.
In our haste to understand the freedoms offered by the Internet, we have neglected or been forced to neglect something just as important: our privacy. As billions of people flock to the latest social media networks, they do not realize that they themselves are the real product of these new free services.
Motivated by “free” platforms and peer pressure, parts of the Internet have become data collection factories with valuable user data and information passed on to real platform customers: the highest bidder. Several powerful corporations have seized large parts of the Internet, harvesting data assets that do not belong to them, weakening privacy rights and opening the door to censorship.
This centralizing factor – along with other concerns about network accessibility, oversight and neutrality – has led to an increase in privacy awareness.
VPN: The first step to securing users’ privacy
The beginnings of virtual private networks or VPNs can be traced back to Microsoft in 1996, when Gurdeep Singh-Pall invented the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol for the implementation of virtual private networks. Fast forward to 2021 and VPN services are growing, Following historically highest level of adoption 27.1% in 2020. Similar to NordVPN reported an increase in VPN usage during COVID-19 locking due to an increase in home orders.
Motivation to use VPNs varies from security requirements to avoiding supervision, overcoming censorship, and improving streaming services. Regardless, VPNs allow users to send their web traffic through an encrypted tunnel to a server managed by a VPN service provider. The traffic then goes to a site where the data continues to be encrypted, provided that users connect only to secure HTTPS sites, resulting in privacy.
VPN services — such as NordVPN, ProtonVPN, Surfshark, and more — use strong security protocols, minimal data logging, a private domain name system or DNS, servers, and Internet-friendly jurisdictions. This in turn leads to benefits such as avoiding censorship, increased security of public and private connections and data transfers, remote access and online anonymity.
Even if it is a step in the right direction, VPNs can significantly slow down the speed of the Internet and lead to a poor connection. Websites can even block VPN-generated traffic with anti-VPN software or log data that can then be resold. Not to mention that VPNs are a centralized service. As a result, they still leave users vulnerable to data leakage and potential censorship.
The way forward is being paved by decentralized alternatives called decentralized private networks or DPNs.
Decentralized private networks
Like VPNs, decentralized private networks or decentralized VPNs also use encrypted tunnels to route web traffic, but do so over decentralized rather than centralized networks. DPNs are serverless and distributed, which provides higher levels of security so that user data is not logged, hacked, or called.
In a decentralized private network, user devices act as a client (as individual Internet users) as well as a server (such as Amazon Web Services or Google). And IP addresses change automatically based on their routing rules, creating tunnels to other nodes around the world.
The negation of the central control point in the DPN services means that there are no central points to attack; the network cannot be downloaded. Users also have control over their data, as no centralized provider has access to the information they are trying to protect.
DPNs are entering the market
As users become more aware of privacy issues and data and information centralization issues, DPNs are becoming more popular. Blockchain and crypto space innovators are already using this requirement to offer their netizens better protection.
For example, the Polkadot-based DPN Deeper Network project combines network security, blockchain, and the sharing economy to create a global peer-to-peer network that offers the same resistance to data theft and censorship as a traditional VPN, without the need for a central server. The same goes for DPNs like Mysterium Network and Hhopr, which allow applications, people and organizations to share information in complete privacy.
In addition to DPN software solutions, there are also hardware devices such as Deeper Connect create private network for users to browse the Internet, just like any VPN. These hardware-decentralized VPNs offer a one-time, subscription-free model. Users of VPN hardware networks can also share their idle bandwidth with other users and earn a profit from their contribution.
Together, this creates a truly private, secure, and rewarding network for Internet users. There is a great possibility that DPNs will lead the Internet from today to the point of a secure communication space where technology and ethics meet to preserve human dignity, freedom and independence.
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The views, ideas and opinions expressed herein are by the author only and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Evan Luthra is a technology entrepreneur between 30 and 30 years old and a blockchain expert with an honorary Ph.D. in decentralized and distributed systems. His companies StartupStudio and Iyoko are investing and helping build the companies of tomorrow. Evan is a lecturer at various universities and conferences around the world.