The battle against cyber criminals to protect user privacy on the internet is never-ending. It is so because the advancement in technology aids end users and businesses trying to secure themselves as much as it serves those trying to hack into other people’s systems.
This is already a battle big enough to at least keep fighting without losing. Yet, we have other major issues related to internet surfing, and those are centralization and censorship.
Back in the day, when the internet first started gaining traction, most pioneers of this evolving space envisioned it as a decentralized network. The internet was supposed to allow users to interact with each other and find information without anyone centrally controlling the flow of information. Today, however, central entities — mostly the governments — can legally curb internet access, ban websites, take down social media posts, and control what their people see on the internet.
We only wish that it ended there, but there’s more. Our security is at stake not only because of cybercriminals but also because of online platforms that skim every bit of our data and activity from the internet. Most of us are well aware of how Facebook, Google, and other internet platforms track and trace our activity to show relevant ads to us. They also store it on central storage servers, which further exposes us to risks of hack and theft.
As cybercriminals and central entities together spoil our internet surfing experience, people often find themselves searching for solutions to bypass these hurdles and enjoy the internet with ultimate freedom.
The numbers are worse than most of us would want to imagine. In the U.S. alone, there were over 1,000 major data breaches that exposed the sensitive information of more than 155 million people. In the first half of 2020, over 33 billion records were exposed due to data thefts. Even identity fraud reached its peak last year as hackers were able to steal over $16.9 billion from credit cards, mobile phone apps, and the likes.
Cybercrimes keep increasing even though the cybersecurity budget of enterprises remains on the hike. In 2020, enterprises worldwide spent almost $124 billion but failed to entirely secure the data they store.
On the censorship and centralization aspect of the internet, it is noteworthy that even with all the criticism, central entities continue to exploit user privacy or control what users see on the internet.
For example, the Chinese government is one of the most infamous when we speak of internet censorship. Major websites and platforms like Google, Wikipedia, WhatsApp, Reddit, and others are not accessible to the Chinese. There are other countries like Turkey, North Korea, and India that are known for censoring online websites.
On the other hand, even after scandals like the Cambridge Analytica, the likes of Facebook continue to steal user data.
We can continue with examples and numbers, but the point remains that the internet, as it is today, is not a safe place to surf without proper security measures.
The COVID19 pandemic pushed the world indoors and forced companies to allow their employees to work from home. During this time, people became more aware of their internet security and privacy.
Concerned about their security, the number one option they found was to install a VPN, a virtual private network. VPNs are not new to the internet security scene, but they have gained rapid adoption in recent years. So, what exactly are VPNs?
When you switch on a VPN while surfing the internet, every bit of information transmitted from your system is sent through a tunnel having exit nodes in locations far away from yours. This disguises your details and gives the impression that the traffic is coming from a different location. It also encrypts the details of whatever you explore, so your internet service provider cannot see your browsing history. Besides, a hacker watching to exploit users of a public WiFi network cannot get to your system as they cannot spot you in the network.
Sounds safe, doesn’t it?
Of course, VPNs have offered great security to end-users over the years. But it seems that they may just not be enough anymore to protect users of the internet. Why, you wonder?
Well, the reason lies in the very word that ails the freedom on the internet today — centralization. Centralized businesses manage and control the VPNs we use today. These central entities offer bandwidth to users for a premium fee, and they store their users’ data on a centralized server. Now, we all know that anything with a centralized infrastructure is highly susceptible to hacks.
So, how do we protect the protector? Let’s see.
As the security concerns around VPNs mount, there’s been a proliferation in the number of projects exploring blockchain technology to offer the same services over a decentralized infrastructure. Two of the leading projects in this domain are Mysterium Network and Deeper Network.
For example, the Deeper Network relies on millions of devices working in unison through a blockchain network rather than a central server to offer bandwidth to its users. The users who share their bandwidth get rewarded in cryptocurrencies for their contribution. Apart from that, Deeper Network uses similar but modified techniques as other VPNs to secure users on the internet. Even the Mysterium Network works similarly. And any person who joins the network becomes a VPN provider. What’s different in their case is that everything is decentralized rather than centralized.
This means, no data is stored on a central server. There are no central points of attack in these system and hence, hackers cannot easily breach them. This offers increased security to the user data and ensures that no one can attack the VPN provider itself.
Above all, there are now hardware devices like Deeper Network’s Deeper Connect that users can buy and create their own client and server for surfing the internet. It entirely eliminates the need for relying on any third party and helps users create their own protected shell through which they can surf the internet without much security risks, censorship, or data theft.
It’s best to conclude by saying the same thing we started with: we are fighting a never-ending battle against cybercriminals. While in the future it may be something else, today, one of the best solutions in sight for personal security and privacy on the web seems to be a decentralized private network.