The Sentinel Network, a decentralized peer-to-peer (P2P) bandwidth marketplace that supports the Sentinel dVPN application, is now live on the Cosmos mainnet.
“Sentinel is the first project that focuses on offering privacy at the network level to any blockchain or dapp,” said Dan Edlebeck, co-founder of Exidio, which contributed to development of the Sentinel decentralized virtual private network (dVPN) protocol. “Once integrated, these blockchains or applications will be able to provide their users with both privacy and censorship resistance. Simply, the purpose of the Sentinel ecosystem is to empower universal access to the internet in a trusted and provable manner.”
Sentinel Network allows anyone to be able to sell his or her bandwidth on its marketplace. Developers can use the Sentinel Protocol, built with Cosmos SDK, to build applications, both public and private, that use the Sentinel Network’s bandwidth marketplace for dVPN applications.
Users will be able to sell their bandwidth to power the Sentinel Network and be rewarded in $SENT for doing so. As Sentinel’s testnet was originally built on Ethereum, a token swap will be launched Saturday to convert holders’ ERC-20 $SENT tokens to Sentinel’s native Cosmos-based $DVPN. $DVPN will be used to secure the network, participate in on-chain governance, pay node holders and rent bandwidth.
In February, Sentinel completed a $3.5M fundraising round.
dVPN vs. VPN
Generally, a virtual private network (VPN) lets its users create a secure connection to another network. It is often used to gain access to restricted websites and content, shield browsing activity from public Wi-Fi and provide a degree of anonymity by hiding locations.
VPN applications mask a user’s internet-protocol (IP) address, which is like a fingerprint of your device. VPNs generally help obfuscate that fingerprint. A VPN server will create an encrypted tunnel for your internet traffic that shields it from governments, internet service providers (ISPs) and others.
Some governments block certain websites, such as Google or Wikipedia, based on geo-fencing, which means they can block it for people within different geographic regions. VPNs help evade that restriction by letting people connect to servers in areas outside the geo-fenced one.
As Top 10 VPN has regularly reported, nearly three-quarters of free VPNs on the market have some level of vulnerability, share or expose customer data, or even contain malware.
A decentralized VPN takes these privacy measures a few steps further in that it can’t be compromised by a central actor or shut down by closing the company or server running it. In this way, it’s more resilient than a centralized VPN. Additionally, because all the code is open source, a trusted third party isn’t needed; rather, users can just check themselves.
The initial focus of the Sentinel ecosystem was to provide a framework for the construction of dVPNs, according to Peter Mancuso, chief operating officer of Exidio.
“Whether the purpose is to access restricted content or to increase the security of their transmission of data over the internet, individuals all over the world are demanding these types of security measures,” Mancuso said.
As Freedom House noted in its latest annual “Freedom of the Net” report, the pandemic is “accelerating a dramatic decline in global internet freedom.” For the 10th year in a row, internet users have “experienced an overall deterioration in their rights, and the phenomenon is contributing to a broader crisis for democracy worldwide.”
Sentinel can be used for everything from browsing Netflix to limiting surveillance of an IP address, and stopping ISPs from logging data and selling it. “More extreme use cases relate to people in MENA (Middle East and North Africa) using the platform to engage in pro-democracy movements, or simply organizing against the will of an authoritarian government,” Edlebeck said.
Sentinel has been used by Iraqi activists, for example, as an alternative to centralized VPNs, which can be hacked.
Sentinel enables end-to-end encryption between users and the servers they are accessing, all with open-source transparency. The dVPN protocol has a “system of bandwidth provability,” which lets the person provide his or her bandwidth in exchange for some agreed-upon compensation from the user.
Sentinel gathers no logs pertaining to the user’s browsing or data history and uses a robust relay network with exit nodes (where the encrypted traffic hits the normal internet) whose ownership is distributed across many participating nodes, so that users cannot be identified. Traditionally, exit nodes can be monitored to observe network traffic and potentially identify users.
That being said, using a dVPN doesn’t mean you will ultimately stay fully anonymous. The ever-lurking user error, downloading malware and other factors could compromise anonymity.
“Importantly, ISPs could be ordered by a particular government to turn the internet off completely,” said Mancuso. “While this sounds drastic, this is certainly possible and has happened in the past. However, technology such as Starlink, developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, will literally beam the internet from space. Combining such a solution with Sentinel could prove to be a massive win for an individual’s sovereign right to security and importantly, privacy, when using the internet.”