VPNs: What Are They and Why Should They Be Decentralized?

VPNs: What Are They and Why Should They Be Decentralized?

At D-Web Technologies, we're always looking to partner with decentralized protocols that share our goal of building a free and open internet. For some months, we've been following one emerging technology closely: dVPNs, or Decentralized Virtual Private Networks – as well as Sentinel, a leading project in the space.

First, though, what is a VPN?

VPNs have become a popular way of browsing anonymously while also avoiding the tech companies that harvest and sell our data for profit. But to understand the problems with VPNs, we need to understand how they work. 

When you view a website, your computer sends information over the open net to a server storing that website’s data. This server, called the ‘host’ server, then sends this data to your computer, which looks something like this:

Along this path, your data is vulnerable. A hacker can connect, and use your IP Address to trace it back to your computer. Here, they can access passwords, bank accounts, and other sensitive data. What’s more, whenever you send your information to the host, they often save and sell the information to advertisers so they can target you with specific advertising.

A VPN adds an additional server to this path. Instead of connecting directly, your information passes through an external VPN server. The VPN server encrypts the information before sending it to the website host. The host then sends the information back along the same encrypted path to the VPN, which decrypts the data and returns it back to you.

In theory, then, VPNs should make the internet safer and more private because they let users browse the web while keeping their location and data hidden from third parties. So why don't they?

Today’s VPNs share one central point of weakness: the VPN itself. Because VPNs still store their information on centralized servers, a single hack can expose the personal data of millions of users. In practice, the use of a centralized server goes against the core idea of a VPN. 

That's where decentralized – or d – VPNs come in.

For true privacy, a VPN can't be centralized. Here, the centralized server is replaced with a decentralized network of servers. Whereas before there was one central point of attack for a hacker, now there is a web of possible servers. No specific target can be focused on, and this security by obscurity helps keep people’s data secure.

The other great advantage of a dVPN is that it is fully transparent for users. Because the protocols that govern it have to be open source to be decentralized, the strength of the encryption, the bandwidth use, and proof of no logs are all verifiable by the user, rather than based on the company's word. This is where the term ‘trustless’ comes from – no verification required.

A company called Sentinel is already creating dVPN's such as these using blockchain. You can learn more about Sentinel in our blog post. More than a dVPN project, Sentinel is a self-sustaining ecosystem whose goal is to revolutionize the VPN industry. Ultimately, they aim to go further and create a free, open internet – one which preserves users' privacy. Much like the Helium project, Sentinel enables anyone to 'rent' out their bandwidth and get rewarded with tokens in return.

In our following blogs, we'll explore the Sentinel project further – and discuss how D-Web is working to bring our shared vision of a genuinely free and open internet to life.

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