The Sentinel Network, a decentralized 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 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 their bandwidth on its marketplace. Developers can utilize 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 strategic capital raise.
Generally, a virtual private network (VPN) lets its users create a secure connection to another network. It is often used to access restricted websites and content, shield browsing activity from public WiFi and provide a degree of anonymity by hiding locations.
VPN applications mask a user’s 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, ISPs and others.
Some governments block certain websites, like Google or Wikipedia, based on geo-fencing, which means they can block it for people within different geographic regions. VPNs help evade this by letting people connect to servers in areas outside of 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 (dVPN) takes these privacy measures a few steps further in that it can’t be compromised by a central actor or shut down by shutting down the company or server running it. In this way, it’s more resilient than a centralized VPN. Additionally, since all the code is open sourced, there isn’t a need to trust a third party – users can just check themselves.
The initial focus of the Sentinel ecosystem is to provide a framework for the construction of dVPNs, according to Peter Mancuso, COO 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.”
As Freedom House notes in their latest annual Freedom of the Net report, the pandemic is “accelerating a dramatic decline in global internet freedom.” For the tenth year in a row, users of the internet have “experienced an overall deterioration in their rights, and the phenomenon is contributing to a broader crisis for democracy worldwide.”
Users of Sentinel use it for everything from browsing Netflix to limiting surveillance of their IP address, and stopping Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from logging their data and selling it. “More extreme use cases relate to people in MENA using the platform to engage in pro-democracy movements, or simply organising against the will of an authoritarian government,” said Edlebeck.
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’re accessing, all with open-source transparency. The dVPN protocol has a “system of bandwidth provability,” which lets the person provide their 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 users’ identities 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.”