VPNs are quite the useful tool: they allow us to circumvent geographical restrictions on apps or websites and watch digital content directly even if we’re on the other side of the planet. Also, they provide a handful of features to increase our privacy and anonymity on the web, using heavy encryption protocols and secure connections through the respective companies’ servers, making it impossible for any ISP or government to take a peek at what we’re doing. However, there is something of a catch 22 here: when you purchase access to a VPN from a company while trying to stay anonymous from ISPs, the reality is that you end up entrusting that same VPN company with your data and internet paths to do so.
Nowadays this may not seem like such a big deal since the vast majority of VPN companies state that they follow no log policies, meaning that they won’t look at, gather or sell any of your data. Even so, this is still a big gray area since there is no additional way you can tell exactly whether the company is actually following this policy or not, and there have been cases where VPN providers have turned in their customers for illegal abuse of the service, mainly torrenting licensed media. But perhaps these days of mistrust can finally end thanks to a revolutionary new concept that promises to enamor even more privacy fans: a decentralized VPN.
A Glimpse Into the Future
This type of method is not all that new as we’ve seen how it can be applied to a DNS and even healthcare services so it was only a matter of time until some brilliant minds started to apply it to VPNs. To explain the concept, it is perhaps best to introduce you to the Mysterium Network: a decentralized VPN powered by blockchain. This is an open sourced network, meaning that all you tech geeks out there can easily spot what goes under the hood of a VPN and discover exactly how your private information is dealt with, which is not what typically happens when using the vast majority of ‘regular’ VPNs. And remember that VPNs are often centralized systems, meaning that when you turn on your VPN all your traffic goes through an actual server network, so data could still be secretly collected on these same servers without you even knowing about it. Mysterium Network addresses this issue by aiming at producing a fully decentralized alternative, eliminating the risk of hacks by cybercriminals and even preventing governments from finding your data too.
But how will the Mysterium Network work? Well first of all, remember that this is still a work in progress, but the intention is that it will consist within a network of VPN nodes, allowing anyone to create a node using the open source software. In turn, this means that anyone can become a VPN provider by renting out their unused network traffic to those that might need it. Therefore, anyone can join the network either as a provider (by selling unused network traffic) or as a customer (by buying that traffic from another user), utilizing a P2P (peer to peer) architecture for all VPN nodes in order to create the decentralized network that they hope to create. According to developers there will also be an “immutable Smart Contract running on Ethereum” (a digital currency similar to Bitcoin and a decentralized computing platform) so that customers can make sure that they pay for VPN usage and their providers will get the adequate pay for the services they have provided.
A VPN From Users, for Users
Ultimately, the main objective of this new Mysterium Network is that it acts as a decentralized marketplace “connecting VPN users to VPN providers who match each other’s preferences”, using factors such as pricing, quality of the service, selected level of security and much more. Not to mention that this is still a VPN, so you can count on the added usual security features such as a solid encryption, security protocols and all that. However, as mentioned, this is still very much a work in progress and the team divided its development into six stages, in which the last one is planned to be completed by 2019.
Nonetheless, when Mysterium Network is officially available we could well be looking at the prototype as the VPN of the future, where the most imperative word will be transparency. Users will be able to remain anonymous from governments and ISPs and won’t need to trust a VPN company with their data ever again in order to do so, meaning that their internet footsteps will be 100% hidden.
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