Illusion of privacy vs. privacy

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Is unrestricted internet access something you should take care of?

Let’s look at some basic internet usage statistics: 60% of the world’s population uses the Internet for fast information, entertainment, news and social connections, yet 80% do not have access to the Internet without filters. While some nations allow citizens to use VPNs to access restricted content, some countries, including China, Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Iraq, and Turkey, have banned VPNs altogether. The Asia-Pacific region leads the world in VPN usage, with 35% VPN users and 61% Indonesian Internet users. Censorship is on the rise, with China, North Korea and Iran at the forefront.

Why has the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) increased so much recently? Let’s see what a VPN is and how it works.

What is a VPN?

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is an encrypted connection of a device to a network over the Internet. Encrypted connections help ensure that sensitive data is transmitted securely. Simply put, a VPN protects a user’s identity and ensures online privacy in real-time by encrypting the data transferred.

How does a VPN work? What are its advantages?

By routing the user’s IP address through the VPN host – a specially configured remote server – the VPN hides the user’s IP address. When a user connects to the Internet using a VPN, the VPN server becomes the source of the user’s data. This indicates that the user’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) and other third parties will be unable to view the websites accessed by the user and the data communicated on the Internet. While a VPN cannot completely anonymize online connections, it can act as a filter, converting all data into unknown data. Even if someone could access the user’s data, it would be useless.

Increased efficiency, security and control of the private network are all advantages of using a VPN. The VPN industry is expected to reach $ 31.1 billion this year.

It is frequently used by individuals, remote employees and organizations who want to protect sensitive information from the eyes. According to VPN usage statistics for 2022, more than 31% of Internet users use VPN services. More than half of all VPN users use public Wi-Fi to protect their privacy. Other notable benefits include anonymous surfing, access to restricted sites, avoiding bandwidth throttling, hidden browsing activity from the government, access to blocked information, and receiving discounts when shopping online.

These VPNs are often referred to as conventional or central VPNs (cVPNs). As the name suggests, centralized VPN relies on centralized servers to retrieve and send data. The information is then stored in a single location that could be hacked, exposing the information to third parties. So, what can be done to address these security concerns?

Decentralized VPN

This is where the concept of decentralization comes into play. A decentralized VPN, or dVPN, is probably end-to-end encrypted and built on a blockchain, a decentralized database that is shared between nodes in a computer network. Because it is decentralized, the data is not transmitted through a single central server, but it is spread over many nodes, random individuals located all over the world. A user’s identity or online activity is unknown to a node.

We may refer to dVPN as a peer-to-peer network of privately held servers that are not controlled or operated by a single entity.

The advantages of dVPN are the same as standard VPN, but with the difference of enhanced security and transparency in data transmission.

What is the difference between VPN and dVPN?

1. Central Servers / Decentralized Servers

When cVPN relies on a central server, the entire dVPN network is spread across nodes, which can be a computer or a system. Since there is no focal point, it is almost impossible to hack or compromise this network.

2. Closed source / open source

Standard VPN is a closed source, meaning that customers have no idea how they operate or whether they are encrypting their data or keeping logs. Users have no choice but to trust the VPN provider as there is no backdoor. dVPN, on the other hand, is open source. Anyone with a basic understanding of blockchain technology can access the source code on GitHub, check it out, and make sure no logs are kept.

3. Data log / no data log

Central VPN services may be compromised. Over the past several years, we’ve seen plenty of data breaches, with more than 21 million mobile VPN application users swiping credentials and selling online. In addition, data can be controlled and manipulated by search engines and social media platforms to provide customized ads, spread fake news and suppress the truth. Users’ data is not stored by dVPN, which can be verified due to open source code.

4. Energy consumption / energy efficient

Companies providing cVPN services need a data center that can increase their energy and hardware needs over time. In contrast, dVPN utilizes the shared bandwidth of the global node host community. Thus it recycles more and more bandwidth which brings energy efficiency and lower cost to the customers.

5. Resistant to censorship / censorship

Traditional VPNs can be controlled partially or completely by authoritarian regimes as they must comply with the rules and regulations established by the nation where the server is located. In China, where the government controls the Internet, the use of VPNs that are not certified by the authorities is prohibited – VPNs must provide backdoor access to the government for approval. The first formal VPN ban was imposed in Russia in 2021, where censorship has reached the skies, and the term “free speech” appears only in the literature. As the list of restricted VPN providers grows, people have only a few options for accessing complex information. Because dVPN nodes are hosted by community members, they are not bound by government regulations and can avoid any limitations that may be in place.

Importance of Web3

Over the last two years, Web3 has become a widely used buzzword. This indicates that the web is being upgraded. But more than an upgrade, Web3 is a movement and a paradigm shift in the well-known problems that have arisen from the Web2 world. Tech giants have been clear winners in the age of centralized products / services, using the Internet as a platform to sell their products and at the same time gather information about their customers.

The services offered by search engines and social media platforms are mostly free, so they say “when the service is free, you are a product.” Meta is one of the most infamous companies to reach more than half a trillion minds in market cap thanks to their business dollar model of selling user data and then throwing targeted ads at them. Web3 is a long-awaited solution for regular users to retrieve and retrieve their data. In this case, the consumer can decide whether he wants to share the data and pay directly to do so. Taking away the power to make huge profits from users’ data from tech giants and giving users this possibility can be seen as a tool to combat asset inequality while respecting data privacy. So what is the link between Web 3 and decentralization? The network has no owner, no focal point of failure, and profits are shared among all network participants.

The role of DAO

Decentralized autonomous organizations or communities without a central leader are a new type of entity. Original for the Internet, powered by its members and completely transparent, this is an opportunity to revolutionize the technology of doing business with strangers you have never met before on the Internet. DAOs create the opportunity to create an online entity that includes people from around the world without the need for centralized control. Nodes, validators or even full-scale projects are now easier to develop when you just need to rely on verifiable and transparent DAO code. When there is no owner, the operation is run by code. All costs, from costs to protocol changes, need to be voted on by DAO members. This is how legal entities build and operate in Web3 space.

An example would be DAO builders to host nodes on a decentralized virtual private network. They can fund the project, rent space, set up infrastructure and then automatically distribute profits among members. All this without the need for accountants or lawyers.

What will the future hold?

VPN will continue to be adopted in the future due to privacy, security and risk concerns.

Although some consumers are aware of data tracking and tolerate it for convenience, more and more consumers are choosing to keep their data private. There are journalists who expose the naked truth about dictatorial governments and the situation on the ground and there are others who present their views online in opposition to the ruling party’s point of view, which also leads to fines and detentions.

Due to the lack of tools to deal with the current difficulties, the sustainability of the central VPN is at stake in the face of expanding dictatorship, censorship, Internet restrictions and attacks on press freedom. With the evolution of Web3 and decentralization, online privacy and freedom of expression may eventually reach their full potential. When using Sentinel-based DVPN, users can be confident that their data is secure, encrypted, and not shared with any third party. Additionally, anyone can set up a node and start sharing spare bandwidth by reducing their carbon footprint while earning passive income.

Your data as well as your future are under your control.

Dan Edleback is the co-founder and CEO of Exidio,

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