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Sentinel — Decentralizing the Multi Billion Dollar VPN Industry

Over the last decade, internet access all over the world has been on the rise thanks to the increase of devices that can access the internet as well as the growing number of wi-fi networks and mobile data connections. And while browsing, you may notice some websites list your IP address on the corner of their page. These sites automatically know who you are, and sometimes even where you are. Every day, we reveal more of our lives online; and as we do physically, we need to protect ourselves digitally as well.

Protect your data with VPN — or not.

With increased use of the internet, there is also rising concern of security and data privacy, with a popular solution being VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks. You’ve undoubtedly seen or heard the word ‘VPN’ before with many companies advertising their products and services all over social media through content creators. VPNs work to secure your data through its encrypted servers, rerouting your data traffic through virtual tunnels and hiding you from potential hacking attacks. VPNs mask your IP address with one from its own servers, allowing you to browse through sites that you normally have restrictions with. Your online activities would be completely disassociated from your personal IP address, and therefore disassociated from your identity. The benefits are seemingly straightforward: protection from malicious external forces while browsing the web with the added bonus of being able to access geo-restricted content so you can get more out of your streaming services.

Still, these security providers are not fool-proof and, in recent years, we’ve seen heightened hacking activity and data breaches stemming from VPN servers, we also have to ask “how much can we trust the companies that offer us these services?” With the industry being controlled by only a handful of companies, how can we be sure that they’re free of vulnerabilities or that they’re not logging our data as well?

NordVPN, one of the most trusted VPN providers, had been attacked by hackers in 2019. Just this year, three of the popular VPN options for Android were speculated to have been hacked, with more than 20 million users’ data from these apps being sold online. One of the three providers, SuperVPN, was taken off Google Play mid-2020 due to its app having vulnerability issues. Hacked accounts saw their sensitive information being sold online. Anything that was stored in the apps’ central servers were compromised; including Usernames, passwords, email addresses, and full names. Bank details, payments, transactions, and credit card details were also found to have been part of the compromised user data. This goes to show that without proper security protocols put in place, hackers will find a way to abuse the system.

What is a Decentralized VPN?

Where VPN connects its users to a separate centralized server to mask from third- parties, decentralized VPN works on a different level in that it makes use of a peer-to-peer bandwidth system. This system works like AirBNB, where anyone can “rent out” their unused bandwidth in exchange for monetary compensation, yet security is being regulated by the main provider.

So how does this make hacking so much more difficult? For one, dVPN users can freely jump from one server to another, as long as there is available bandwidth. The servers, called nodes, are secured in a database monitored by the main company provider. dVPN cancels out the singularity of where personal information is being stored, making hacking nearly impossible since hackers will have to access all individual nodes to compile enough information required to sell to third-parties. Additionally, dVPN works with open source coding. Anyone with coding experience will be able to see the full codes used by a dVPN provider, and determine whether there is any anomaly or reason for doubt on the trustworthiness of the provider. Any weak points or vulnerabilities can be detected immediately, and can be used to determine whether the provider is secure enough for encrypted browsing or not.

Data protection is a huge concern, as we move towards a more virtual world. We are under constant attacks from data breaches where our personal information can be used for nefarious purposes. With a dVPN, your data is protected from all other parties, including the host of the websites you visit, and the dVPN provider itself. Whether you’re just browsing, or you’re dealing with sensitive information on your finances, dVPN can provide a stable, secure way of hiding your personal information from public eyes.

Sentinel dVPN — A Security Provider

One of the companies that provides the public with dVPN is Sentinel dVPN. If you’ve been following cryptocurrencies, you may have come across Sentinel, or by its cryptocurrency token code SENT. Sentinel dVPN has been aggressively growing in popularity due to the provider’s glowing reputation in data security, having surpassed the 900TB mark of data consumption.

Sentinel works like most dVPN providers. Interactions in Nodes go through individual checkpoints, or Validators, that are connected by a main hub. Information is run through various barriers, called Zones, to ensure security. By operating on top of the Cosmos SDK, Sentinel can ensure their zones communicate effectively and reducing any cause for lags. Established in 2018, operating on the Ethereum platform, is built on top of the Cosmos SDK, and works with the Tendermint Blockchain — the combination of these two technologies allows Sentinel’s interoperability with other chains and fast consensus among validators to achieve higher throughput. With Cosmos, Sentinel is able to take advantage of the Cosmos Hub/Zone structure as well as Comos’ IBC protocol.

What makes Sentinel different from its competitors?

Normally, VPN providers have sole control over their networks and application codes, which leaves a lot hidden from public view. We can’t say for sure if their network isn’t logging the data of its users or if their applications are truly secure because its code is hidden. Sentinel dVPN addresses these exact concerns through its design and architecture. As such, Sentinel’s envisioned network has the merits of:

Provable Encryption — Sentinel dVPN is able to prove end-to-end encryption between the user and the server through open-source transparency and application verification systems. You can view the code of Sentinel dVPN through their GitHub.

Proof of Bandwidth — There is a system of bandwidth provability that ensures the bandwidth from the server provider reaches the user as promised in a trustless and provable manner.

Proof of No Logs — The ability to provide evidence that there is no logging of the user’s browsing or data history and that it’s not being stored by application developers.

Distributed Exit Nodes — Having a network of exit nodes or dVPN servers whose ownership is distributed amongst many participants.

Distributed Relay Network — Having an extensive relay network with strong governance and participation to reduce the risk of bad actors, while making sure that exit node hosts don’t know the identity of the user

The current iteration of Sentinel dVPN is just the first of many dVPN applications on the Sentinel Network. By globally distributing computer power, having applications and nodes managed by different organizations and individuals, it makes it increasingly difficult for any one party to track a user and log their data.

Another bonus of this framework is added reliability. When a VPN (it’s application, nodes, and network) is managed by a single party any malfunction in the system can lead to the entire network failing. This then leads to downtime while the operator fixes the issue, preventing the user from being able to use the VPN, preventing users from taking full advantage of the service. For Sentinel, however, having a robust network of relays and nodes operated by many actors provides users with several options for servers they can use. This allows for 24/7 availability of the dVPN and unparalleled convenience for the user. Aside from the inherent merits of a decentralized VPN, Sentinel dVPN has a few key features that will directly benefit its users.

Relay Network

In the absence of a relay network, an exit node would directly communicate between the user and web-servers on the internet. Although it can be proven that a dVPN application doesn’t have any logs of the user’s browsing history or metadata, it’s not currently possible to prove that logs aren’t collected or stored by an exit node host. Sentinel’s inclusion of a robust, relay network operated by a multitude of individuals or organizations, allows the obfuscation of a user’s IP address and data since the exit node no longer has direct communication to the user and their device. Some say that a relay network, especially one that is volunteer based like Sentinel’s, isn’t invulnerable. If a single entity gains control of a significant portion of the network, they can deanonymize the user through a ‘Man In The Middle’ (MITM) attack. Thus, Sentinel works against this through incentive programs to attract more unique participants into the network, further strengthening the security of Sentinel.

Proof of Bandwidth

As exit nodes and relays are managed by many different actors, it’s important to ensure that the bandwidth these actors provide is correct in order to prevent anyone from gaming the system and getting compensated for bandwidth that users don’t experience. With Sentinel’s implementation of Proof of Bandwidth, ‘bandwidth signatures’ are generated by both the service provider and the user. These are essentially messages that consist of the bandwidth transmitted in the P2P connection within a predetermined period of time. These messages are signed by the user and the service provider with their private keys and stored on-chain for provenance. If there is a discrepancy between the bandwidth exchange claims, the connection is terminated because of the presence of at least one bad actor.

Hardware Integration

The Sentinel dVPN Protocol can be integrated with Open-WRT based networking routers, a popular open-source router firmware. This allows for two benefits to users of these types of routers. The first is the easier use of the dVPN, as a network can be created by the router for use with the dVPN. This eliminates the need for having to install a dVPN application in each of the devices connected and instead provides a secure connection to all devices connected to the router. The second benefit is ease of monetization. Sentinel dVPN integration with a router allows router owners to become node hosts. This allows router owners to earn passive income by monetizing their unused bandwidth, earning them tokens for providing bandwidth to the network. This reduces the cost-based barrier to entry for participants, making participation in the network even more attractive, further fueling the growth of the global network. Router owners also have the option of hosting relay nodes so they don’t need to expose their IP address while hosting exit nodes. Attempted security attacks will also trigger a lockdown protocol on the affected servers, nodes, or zones.

Application specific transactions and data exchange happens on the ‘Sentinel dVPN Zone’ (side-chain), while all token related transactions and governance happens on the ‘Sentinel Hub’ (main-chain) The Hub/Zone structure allows Sentinel Network’s Hubs to communicate with the Cosmos Hub, enabling services on the Sentinel Network to communicate with each other and accept either the native token (SENT) or other white-listed tokens.

Token Utility — $SENT

The main token used in the Sentinel Network is SENT and it is essential in the governance and security of the network. Network governance is in the hands of validators who are democratically determined through the delegation of tokens by holders. The tokens will be used to participate in governance related decisions as a form of ‘voting power’, with the magnitude of voting power dependent on the amount of tokens a user holds. With initially only 50 active validators, the ones who are considered part of the active set of validators are those who have the most tokens delegated to them (either from themselves or external holders). As a Sentinel token holder, delegating your tokens to reputable validators not only helps secure the network, but also allows you to earn passive income.

The SENT token has a unique feature as a work token. Simply put, dVPN bandwidth node hosts receive 80% of the revenue they generate from offering their bandwidth the the network. The other 20% of revenue is distributed to all Sentinel token holders that are staking their tokens. Thus, as the network grows, value capture and accrual directly correlates to the revenue captured by token stakers. We view it as a very robust and well designed token model.

Additionally, stakeholders of SENT also have the ability to create governance proposals or vote on proposals issued by other community members. These proposals allow for various elements or variables of the chain to be edited without the requirement of a “hard-fork” in the chain or a manual maintenance-based shutdown of the chain.

Lastly, SENT can also be used as a medium of payment for advanced dVPN services and dVPN subscriptions, although payment for subscriptions will not be limited to SENT and will most likely also accept fiat.

Meanwhile, SENT (Sentinel) operates on the well-known Ethereum platform, and is being traded in 10 active markets — with Uniswap (v2) accounting for the most active trades. There are about 2 billion coins in circulation, which is also its market cap value. While the token is not as popular or hyped as the OG Bitcoin, or the meme-based Dogecoin, trading has become more active as the dVPN company increases in usage. As one of the perceived undervalued Cosmos projects, SENT exhibits the key indicators ripe for market growth, and has placed itself on the watchlist of many Cryptocurrency traders.

The Sentinel Ecosystem is a vastly growing network of key players in cybersecurity. Last year, we saw an alliance form between Sentinel dVPN and Mysterium Network, a fellow dVPN provider. The aim of the alliance was to enhance user security and anonymity, making users completely untraceable and therefore, un-hackable.

Partnerships

So we know now that Sentinel dVPN has a lot to offer consumers in terms of resiliency and security in a VPN, but is that enough to convince individuals and organizations alike? The nodes definitely say so. As of writing, there are 230 available nodes that consumers can utilize, peaking with as many as 372 nodes available last November 2020. Over the course of Sentinel dVPN’s life, there have also been a total of over 9.4 million sessions.

Aside from Sentinel dVPN’s usage, we are also seeing interest from different organizations who have launched partnerships and alliances with Sentinel. In 2019, they announced a partnership with SpiderVPN, a UK based organization proliferating their own pro-privacy router. They will be integrating Sentinel dVPN at the firmware to enable its users to connect directly to a SpiderVPN ‘Enterprise-Grade’ Private Net running on the Sentinel Network.

PlutusDeFi partnered with Sentinel dVPN to secure off-chain privacy for PlutusDeFi.com users, protecting platform users’ session data. In October of the same year, Mysterium Network launched an alliance with Sentinel to protect online users from personal data hacks, cybercrime, and surveillance. These two companies are some of the first to develop decentralized VPNs in the world, with Mysterium currently building the world’s largest P2P network to power Web 3 privacy applications.

A newcomer, Exidio, aims to play alongside the VPN pioneers with similarly-operating systems, making the provider easily compatible with other platforms. Exidio is also an integrated partner of Sentinel dVPN that has modelled its framework based on Sentinel’s platform. The company plans to create dVPN applications suitable for businesses, and can improve business productivity and efficiency. SENT would see an increase in value as its partnership with Exidio expands the Sentinel’s market demographics to include white-levelled audiences.

Overall, Sentinel dVPN seemingly strategizes to collaborate with its competitors rather than rival them. The Sentinel Ecosystem grows not only in numbers, but also in shared knowledge and aligned goals. The beneficiary of all this is ultimately Sentinel’s users and clients, who would get the unhackable security system they were promised. At the same time, this collective of hacktivists educate the public on the importance of data security in a vastly advancing technological world.

Meet the Team

The team behind Sentinel dVPN works hard to ensure all its users get their promised security and anonymity. The company employs only the best of the best in developers, recruiting only from renowned institutions all over the world. While the team focuses efforts on achieving the mission and goals of the company, they also run a blog powered by Medium.com for updates and news on their projects and partnerships.

You can follow the Sentinel Blog on Medium: https://medium.com/@Sentinel

While the majority of cyberspace is still run by the same private companies that are not able to keep up with the advancement of data protection, smaller projects like Sentinel is created by a team of new-generation developers who understand the need of advancement for our own safety in digital spaces. The team consists of groundbreakers in the digital space, and pioneers of a network that aims to be inclusive in providing data security for all.

Conclusion

If you’re worried about your anonymity with what you do online, you might want to look into dVPN options. dVPN provides the anonymity of VPN, but with the added multi-level security in a peer-to-peer bandwidth system. Sentinel dVPN is a ready provider — with transparency and security systems in place, and an established community of clients and contributors that is continuously expanding. The company does not only employ developers — experts of their field and with inclusivity in mind; but it also collaborates with peers in the industry to ensure the collation of ideas and advancements are accessible to all.

By decentralizing the VPN, users can enjoy constant reliable and secure service that benefits both enterprises and individuals alike. As more partnerships are formed and participants within the network increase, it will be wise to watch out for Sentinel dVPN as an investment in internet security and data privacy. Of course, as with everything else online, do your own research and find out what provider is right for you depending on the sensitivity of your privacy preferences.

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