It is no more news that decentralization is fast becoming the standard solution for several of the recurring issues plaguing various industries. That said, this concept is slowly finding its way into the cybersecurity scene. Several startups and established firms are introducing tools based on blockchain technologies that would give internet users autonomy over their data.
While many companies are content with this, a handful has gone the extra mile to include censorship and geoblocking as part of the issues, which their solutions must eliminate. For these entities, internet freedom is nothing but a farce if centralized service providers remain at the helm of the internet food chain. Hence, they have opted for a less subtle approach to overhaul the current structures enabling the common ills relating to privacy, freedom, and security.
In this guide, we will review three projects proposing a complete overhaul of centralized internet protocols or VPNs and introducing a decentralized infrastructure in its place. These projects are Tachyon, Unstoppable Domains, and Substratum.
1. Tachyon: The Brainchild of Two Technology-Savvy Companies
Tachyon is a collaborative project between two existing platforms. One is X-VPN, the popular VPN service provider that boasts over 50 million users, while the other is V SYSTEMS, a blockchain solution offering developers a platform to launch their Dapps. Together, these two companies have analyzed the failings of the current VPN and internet architecture, and they have come up with an idea that could win the prize.
What Is Tachyon Proposing?
Tachyon believes that a complete overhaul of the internet protocol is due. Therefore, they intend to replace it with a new one that promises faster speed, reliable security, flexibility, and privacy. To this end, the startup has come up with an alternative protocol that will advertently bring about the right ecosystem to establish a decentralized VPN.
Note that the existing TCP/IP internet protocol suite, widely used by VPN providers, comprises an internet layer, a transport layer, a data link layer, and an application layer. As for Tachyon’s protocol, it partly obeys the layering found in the TCP/IP, albeit with two or more tweaks that would give theirs more threat maneuvering capacity.
Hence, there is the inclusion of a unique security protocol, Distribution Hash Table (DHT), cryptographic encryption, and User Datagram Protocol (UDP). All in all, Tachyon argues that their design would preserve users' privacy better than the unencrypted HTTP and shaky IP address format utilized in current internet architecture. Now that you have a little idea of what Tachyon is trying to achieve, it is important to note that it is but one of the many solutions utilizing blockchain technology to create a decentralized VPN or internet platform.
The Underlying Technologies of Tachyon’s Protocol
Tachyon Booster UDP (TBU)
Tachyon claims that its TBU, the transport layer that implements blockchain technology, DHT, and UDP, is 200% to 1000% faster than conventional protocol suites. It enables a 90% connection rate on a weak network with 95% stability, regardless of how complex the network environment is.
Tachyon Security Protocol
This protocol offers ECDHE-ECDSA end-to-end encryption simulation to protect the personal data of users. To do this, it inputs random data to hide the content of messages from prying eyes. Similarly, this protocol executes some of blockchain’s security features, like the use of public and private keys for decrypting information.
This feature preserves the anonymity of users by introducing multi-path routing. This is another way of saying that a piece of information is segregated into different IP packets and then sent in multiple paths. It also implements multi-relay forwarding to circumvent man-in-the-middle attacks.
Having perused the functionalities of Tachyon’s network, it is clear that the startup has done commendably well in infusing different security features for prospective users. However, I could not help but wonder how much technical prowess a project of such magnitude entails, and if Tachyon can rely only on the expertise of X-VPN and V SYSTEMS to succeed. Both are relatively new to their respective markets, and it will take a lot of ingenuity on their part to go toe to toe with established firms.
There is also the issue regarding the nascent status of blockchain technology and the security frailties that it is currently susceptible to. Hackers can simply take control of a certain percentage of nodes to automatically gain the capacity to cripple its efficacy.
Don’t forget that Tachyon’s choice to enter the data security conversation will inadvertently cause data regulators to scrutinize its legality. It would be interesting to see how the project handles the plethora of regulations popping up.
Nonetheless, there is enough reason to believe that Tachyon will put up a good fight.
Substratum: A Self-Governing Internet
Similar to Tachyon, the idea powering the Substratum network stems from the need for a decentralized internet where users can benefit from internet freedom. As regards the issue of privacy and net neutrality, the team behind this novel project has introduced encryptions to eliminate the influence of internet service providers and governments. Likewise, instead of fully overhauling existing internet infrastructures, this network simply integrates the functionalities of blockchain into the existing ones. This approach should contribute to the ease-of-use and adoption of the Substratum ecosystem.
Here, the network relies on a distributed node model for security and scalability. Each node serves as a routing point for content between the website’s host and the web users. As such, the architecture eliminates the need for VPN or Tor, when accessing content from websites hosted on Substratum.
The Key Components of Substratum
Substratum host allows users to deploy, run, and manage their website resources on the network. These resources include the domain name and databases. Website owners can pay for hosting as well, albeit in a more convenient and cost-efficient way. Owners pay nodes transmitting their contents to visitors through a pay per click format. Needless to say, this payment option beats the monthly subscription model, which centralized hosting platforms utilize.
These entities serve as the link between website visitors and the hosts. In other words, nodes deliver the content of the website hosted on the network to users, and they get paid for it. To run a node, all you need to do is to own a mid-end CPU and RAM.
To guarantee security, the network has a function that splits the content of a message between multiple nodes. This feature will make it impossible for attackers to have full visibility of the data in transit, even after successfully taking control of one or two nodes.
With this feature, it becomes easy to navigate the substratum network, as users do not have to acquire programming skills before accessing or utilizing the network
Substratum introduces an AI system to identify the closest nodes, through which content can reach web users faster.
Custom-Developed Compression Technology
Regarding the issue of latency, substratum implements a custom-developed technology to ease up congestion.
SDK and API
Substratum simplifies the process of deploying applications on its network by offering developers a Software development kit (SDK) and API.
As novel as substratum’s solution looks, some believe that it is yet to meet the expectations that trailed its launch. However, it is yet unknown if the concerns raised were directed towards Substratum's token unimpressive price performance.
Like Tachyon, the data storage capacity of the network makes it susceptible to regulatory scrutiny. Moreover, it is unclear if the platform has in place a system that will prevent the centralization of nodes. Implementing such a system is another way of ensuring that the platform is safe from attacks.
Unstoppable Domains: The Blockchain-Based Domain Solution
Unstoppable Domains takes a different path to achieve internet freedom, security, and privacy. For this startup, the viable way to help users circumvent the drawbacks of today’s web is to provide a Domain Name System DNS on a blockchain ecosystem. As such, this will make it impossible for entities to block or censor such domains. Similarly, this project offers crypto holders readable names to serve as alternatives to cryptocurrency addresses. This feature mitigates the perceived difficulty that holders encounter as a result of the complex nature of crypto addresses.
Hence, users simply need to create a readable name, instead of trying to remember their address or using the less efficient QR code. Unstoppable Domain runs on the Zilliqa blockchain, therefore, its blockchain domain is .zil. For example, a user looking to adopt this technology can replace his or her address with a domain name like “Fastbender.zil”. All payments directed to this domain will automatically find its way to the appropriate wallet.
More impressive is the fact that the domain names support cryptocurrencies apart from the Zilliqa coin. Combining the two functionalities of Unstoppable Domains makes it possible for users to host censorship-resistant websites. In other words, no third-party entity can block or restrict the activities of the sites.
Features of Unstoppable Domains
Unstoppable Domains implements many of blockchain technology’s functionalities in its internet solution.
First, there is a need for users to create a private key to manage and access their domains. To create one, a user needs to enter their strong password, which will trigger the generation of a key. This key ceases to exist on the browser’s memory as soon as the user’s session has ended. The development team has ensured that the private keys function on multiple blockchains. Therefore, users can use them to access their domains on various blockchains networks.
The smart escrow ensures that the user’s activities on the browser trigger the private key verification. Also, it looks to eliminate the consequences of losing one’s private key. As such, the smart escrow creates a backup key, which the user can use as a substitute whenever he or she misplaces the private key.
Unstoppable Domains is a sound project. However, I couldn’t help but worry that the sale of premium domains, as the company is planning to do, might truncate the efficacy of the project. Also, the censorship-resistant status of the domains means that it is difficult to track and stop illegal activities like terrorism. The question is: Is there a mechanism in place that will monitor nefarious operations while upholding users’ privacy and security?
The blockchain and WEB 3.0 space is beaming with projects dedicated to privacy and cybersecurity issues. For example, Privatix offers a P2P network where users can sell unused bandwidth. Then, there is Mysterium, which promises internet freedom through a decentralized network based on layered VPN protocols. Or amazing WEB 3.0 social network Dreamr, that is all about making users' dreams come true by creating a network where they can empower their aspirations.
That said, the three mentioned in this article have proposed unconventional methods to utilize blockchain technology to decentralize the internet. While this is true for the three, the path each has chosen presents new opportunities as well as poses new questions regarding the efficacy of blockchain as a viable response to problems that come with surfing the net. Nonetheless, from what we have learned so far, it is safe to say that the blockchain space is making progress.
Disclaimer: I do not have any vested interest in any of the mentioned projects.