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Roadmap Update: no more free VPN, nodes get paid in $MYST

mysterium VPN

Has that gotten your attention?

 

Mysterium Network is maturing, alongside our wider ecosystem. With the freedom of speech online being debased, a global pandemic and other macro forces in play  – we see it as a priority to enable peer to peer payments in the most frictionless way possible. 

As we have written previously, transaction fees on Ethereum have proven to be a problem. But we have found the workaround.

To dive deeper, read these blogs:  

1. Layer 1, 2, 3 – and beyond: The search for the cheapest and fastest microtransactions. [2020]

2. Mysterium Network’s Head of Product, Jaro Šatkevič breaks down a lightweight solution for Mysterium Network payments

3. Mysterium Network micropayments whitepaper [2019]

 

Mysterium Network Updated Roadmap Q4 2020

What does this mean?

 

Step one: Network Fork 1

 

All users and node runners within Mysterium Network will have to upgrade into testnet version two (Testnet 2.0).


What is Testnet 2.0?


a) New smart contracts on Goerli testnet – Mysterium Testnet 2.0 will be using new test MYSTT token, same code as new MYST token, with `permit` function and 18 zeros (instead of 8) after the comma. We will also be using a new set of payments smart contracts which will halve settlement of collected funds and add support for being used in multiple chains.

Read more in our deep dive on Layer 2 solutions so as to avoid ETH transaction fees.

b) Payment processor integration into apps  – this will provide the possibility for dVPN consumers to top-up via their Mysterium account with a set of different cryptocurrencies (such as BTC, LTC, ETH, BCH, DAI or USDT). Paid funds will be converted into MYST (or to MYSTT while in testnetv2) token and be sent into the user’s payment channels (top-up address) on the blockchain.

c) 1 MYSTT will be equal to 1 MYST. Also, bounty payouts will be done in MYST tokens. Previously we have pegged 1 collected MYSTT to 1 USD and did node runner bounty payouts in ETH. To take us closer to MainNet environment conditions, the time has come to implement pay-outs in MYST tokens. We will be still using our ETH bounty fund reserves, but we will be buying MYST token on the market to do payouts for node runners.

Users will have to update their applications. You will be given a starter kit of MYSTT. Following this users will need to top up using BTC, LTC, ETH and other cryptocurrencies.

Existing Node Runners will need to upgrade their node into the newest version, network upgrade will be done under the hood.


Please note: 

  • Node runner bounty will be paid only for Mysterium Node Runners running on Testnet 2.0 
  • Node runners will begin to receive payouts in $MYST. 


A month after the transition begins, testnet 1.0 will be completely destroyed. Network fork ends.

Step two: 

 

We will be releasing BetaNet (silent launch for a limited set of test users) and upgrading Testnet 2.0 to use some of Ethereum’s sidechain and cross-chain payments (consumers will be on a sidechain testnet, and node runners will have their accounts on Ethereum Goerli testnet).

This upgrade will happen under the hood and users may even not recognise that such change happened.

This will mean cheaper on-chain transactions for users and node runners as account registration and top-ups will happen on the sidechain instead of Ethereum Blockchain, once on MainNet.

Stay tuned for exciting integration partnerships coming very soon. Subscribe to our newsletter to hear it first. 

As you can clearly see, the nature of the service we are offering and the emerging markets that we are a natural ally to, make Ethereum’s current transaction fees a lock out when onboarding new customers. 

As such, like many other Ethereum-based projects, Mysterium Network has had to reroute our roadmap in search of scalability solutions to give our users the cheapest and fastest service possible, while maintaining decentralized and noncustodial architecture. 

In the following sections, we will review existing Layer 2 solutions in relation to Mysterium Network’s use case, explaining how they offer both opportunities and limitations.

Step three:
Testnet as we know it is going to be destroyed.

Step four:  

 

All users and node runners within Mysterium Network will be upgraded onto Mysterium MainNet in 2021.

 

What is MainNet?


MainNet is Mysterium Network on Ethereum Blockchain. All internal payments will be done using real MYST tokens.

Users will pay as they go for VPN service on Mysterium Network. Mysterium Network will run a few free nodes so that new users can test the service before topping up their account. This is also when we will look to roll out our much-awaited referral program, and other user-focused bounties. 

Node Runners will continue to be paid in MYST. This marks the end of the Mysterium Node Pilot No provider bounty is needed at this point and node runners can settle collected funds any time you like.

What happened to our Mysterium Pro plans?


As we had previously written, we were considering Mysterium Pro as our solution to high Ethereum transaction fees

Thanks, to Multichain support and the ability to use sidechains for consumer payment channels (top-up wallet management), we can avoid releasing a custodial MysteriumPro solution and instead merge its best features (such as pay in different cryptos, or one-click connect) into the default Mysterium VPN application itself. 

Onward to MainNet

 

Mysterium has been hard at work getting peer to peer payments implemented within the network. This has meant the navigation of a quickly shifting technological landscape. We wouldn’t be here without our community of node runners, users and token holders. 

We thank you for your ongoing support and are excited about the new changes to come as Mysterium Network grows to meet the new and very real challenges of our times. 

If you haven’t already, download Mysterium VPN or start to run a node.

Layer 1, 2, 3 and beyond: The search for the cheapest and fastest microtransactions

How many layers does it take to get cheap and fast microtransactions?

Building on top of a quickly iterating Layer-2 scaling ecosystem has meant murky navigation of several new technologies. This is especially difficult for builders looking to find workarounds for high transaction fees on the Ethereum blockchain. 

The recent DeFi boom has led to users cramming into Ethereum Network and creating a large backlog of unprocessed transactions. This has meant network congestion, and high transaction fees – both of which are natural killers for decentralized applications and networks. 

Why are cheap and fast microtransactions important for decentralized networks? 

In Mysterium, a decentralized VPN, payments are peer to peer. Consumers of VPN are directly paying exit node runners for VPN service. As such, there is no middleman with the power to freeze payments. This means that payments happen minute by minute, with transaction values as small as 0.0001 USD (in our native token MYST).

The nature of the peer to peer, and second by second service consumption mean that decentralized VPNs, and other incentivized distributed networks depend on microtransactions as a means of reducing risk within their network economy. Learn more about peer to peer technologies.

Earlier this year, we released our own Layer 2 solution (based on payment channels) on Testnet. This enabled users to transact with one another autonomously, without a need for an intermediary (including us) and without touching Layer 1 (Ethereum blockchain). This introduced super cheap and instant transactions, and allowed paying with values as small as $0.0001.

However, one of the challenges with payment channels, our protocol included, is the need to have specific on-chain transactions. In the case of Mysterium Network this is seen in two events, dVPN account creation and top-up. 

Onward - the search for scalability

User story: As a user in Nigeria, I am looking for a VPN solution that lets me pay for what I consume. I am unable to afford the expensive subscription pricing of traditional VPNs. I try Mysterium VPN, which allows me to stream a video for $0.05 USD in MYST on their freemium version. I run out of free MYST and want to add an additional $1 USD (in MYST). I try to top up. It costs me $2.25 in ethereum tx fees to top up my Mysterium Account. I delete the app.

See our how our userbase is growing in Nigeria.

As you can clearly see, the nature of the service we are offering and the emerging markets that we are a natural ally to, make Ethereum’s current transaction fees a lock out when onboarding new customers. 

As such, like many other Ethereum-based projects, Mysterium Network has had to reroute our roadmap in search of scalability solutions to give our users the cheapest and fastest service possible, while maintaining decentralized and noncustodial architecture. 

In the following sections, we will review existing Layer 2 solutions in relation to Mysterium Network’s use case, explaining how they offer both opportunities and limitations.

Methodology: An Overview of Existing Solutions

Recently at Mysterium we did more research on various Layer 2 solutions and conducted an overview of the most recognised and trustworthy ones in 2020. In this overview, we looked at different sidechains, taking into consideration the differing motivations and user personas of actors within Mysterium Network – [Consumer/ User; Provider/ Mysterium Node Runner]. 

1. Sidechains or alternative blockchains with bridges to Ethereum blockchain

These types of solutions are characterised by xDAI, MaticRSK (RSK is creating bridges into Ethereum, meaning that you can technically move Ethereum based assets onto this Bitcoin sidechain).

The main value proposition of these solutions is they are scalable, capital efficient and offer fast withdrawal into Layer 1. The main drawback is that validators control the network and are able to freeze and confiscate funds with consensus.

This make sidechains unattractive to DeFi (who lock hundreds of millions) offerings, while they remain relevant for a decentralized VPN use case such as Mysterium Network. This is due to the fact that DeFi carries with it different risks when compared to a dVPN.

Matic Network

The following two examples, Plasma and Rollups are different articulations of sidechains, built more specifically for the Ethereum ecosystem.

2. Plasma

Plasma is a framework proposed for scaling Ethereum using hierarchical sidechains. Plasma type sidechains (also referred to as child chains) allow a majority of transactions to occur outside of the Ethereum blockchain. Only deposits and withdrawals, and points of entry and exit are handled on the main blockchain smart contract.

To make sure that transactions are final, Plasma operators run a “state commitment”. This is a cryptographic method for storing a compressed version of the state of sidechain inside the Ethereum blockchain. This storage of a compressed version of the state impacts the user experience of Plasma as it makes it challenging for users to withdraw their tokens. Users are required to be both online frequently and to download data.

While offering significant speed (up to 1000 transactions per second) and latency improvements over Ethereum, Plasma cannot offer the near-zero latency and near-free transaction fees required for a decentralized VPN micropayments solution.

One of the differentiators, and drawbacks of Plasma as a Layer 2 solution is it allows users to leave the network at any time – an action referred to as “exiting”. This means that users can safely withdraw their funds from Plasma even if it is shut down by validators. But this has to be done in a certain period of time and done by everyone. Read more about the mass exit problem in Plasma.

Another drawback, Plasma is not 100% EVM compatible. This would mean any decentralized application building on Ethereum would have to update their smart contracts or it might even not be possible to build on Plasma

Dive deeper into Plasma and its potential applications within distributed networks in Mysterium Network’s Micropayments Whitepaper.

Plasma network

3. Rollups

Rollups are Layer-2 scaling solutions similar in form to Plasma in that a single mainchain contract holds all funds and a cryptographic commitment to larger sidechain state. This state is maintained by users and operators offchain, providing an independence from Layer 1 storage. This is the biggest scalability benefit of Rollups.

 

    1. Optimistic Rollups


      Optimistic Rollups are constructions which enable autonomous smart contracts on Layer 2 using OVM. Borrowing heavily from both Plasma and ZK Rollup designs, Optimistic Rollups trades of some scalability to enable running fully general smart contracts on Layer 2, secured by Layer 1.

      It promises an easy way to migrate existing decentralized solutions and services with a reasonable degree of security/ scalability trade offs. Karl Floresch goes into more detail on Optimistic Rollups and OVM.

    2. ZK Rollups


      ZK Rollups is a Layer 2 solution where data is placed onchain.

      With ZK Rollups operators generate Zero-Knowledge Proof (SNARK) for every state transition, making it impossible for operators to commit an invalid or manipulated state.

      ZK Rollups should theoretically be able to process up to 2,000 transactions per second. 


ZK Rollups solution differs from Plasma as it solves the mass exit problem, meaning that validators are unable to freeze funds and users have no time limit to move funds out of Layer 2 even in case of emergency This makes ZK Rollups a great fit for both DeFi or cold wallets for Hodlrs. 

Its most known application is Loopring, a next-generation high-performance decentralized exchange and payment protocol also focused on scalability.

The challenge with ZK Rollups is the fundamental limitation in transaction amounts [2000 transactions per second], with current real world implementation, Loopring, achieving 500 transactions per second. 

Also, while transaction costs are lower than Ethereum, they cannot in theory be more than 100 times cheaper than Ethereum’s transaction costs. Most like 20 – 50 times cheaper according to our math.

Also, ZK Rollups are the more sophisticated and long term answer. Which as always, will take a longer time to implement. 

zKRollup

4. Payment channels

We have written extensively about payment channels both within our micropayments whitepaper released in 2019, and in several of our more recent updates:

    1. Introducing micropayments on Mysterium Network
    2. MYST, Migration and Mainnet
    3. Mysterium Network begins token migration

TL;DR

Payment channels fuse together the technologies and methodologies used by other payment solutions such as State Channels.

With payment channels parties exchange digital value without committing transactions to the blockchain. Only channel opening and closing are logged on the blockchain.

To open payment channels both parties have to lock some funds into a multisig smart contract. This allows both parties to update channel balances without the fear that funds will be double spent or stolen.

As these microtransactions are “commitments” rather than on-chain payments, we drastically reduce the total amount of transactions sent to the blockchain.

We dive deeper into what payment channels are, and how we envision them functioning in our micropayments whitepaper. Read more.

How are payment channels different from Plasma, ZK Rollups and Sidechains?

Layer 2 solution

From a technical perspective, Plasma and zkRollups – all fall into a wider umbrella of sidechains. Sidechains are fundamentally different in nature from payment channels. We highly recommend “Evaluating Ethereum Layer 2 Scaling Solutions: A Comparison Framework” for a deeper dive into the distinct differences between sidechains.

In our comparison of Layer-2 solutions, we saw that while Rollups are great in terms of security and give significant scalability over Layer 1, they do not completely solve for the challenge of micropayments needed for Mysterium Network. They have a limit of 2K tx/sec, and they don’t give users instant finality. Also the transaction price is still too expensive for $0.001 transactions.

In the following section we will explain how payment channels, and more specifically unidirectional payment channels are the best fit for the peer to peer decentralized virtual private network use case in Mysterium Network.

Payment channels are different as they are:

  • Flexible – i.e. able to live on layer 3, or 2 
  • Cheapest solution when it comes to transaction fees.
  • Most scalable in terms of peer to peer payments.
  • Could be used for cross-chain payments (e.g. from one side-chain to another, or from Layer 1 to Layer 2).

Sidechains (broadly speaking to include Plasma and ZK Rollups) bring with them limitations on transaction amounts. Payment channels on the other hand, could be foundational to cross-chain interoperability as they allow payments to move from one chain to another without custody – with zero costs, and in seconds. Don’t take my word for it, hear it from Vitalik himself.

Unidirectional vs Bi-directional payment channels

Why unidirectional payment channels?

In the case of Mysterium Network, most network actors are either consumers or providers (nodes) of VPN service. Payments are always going in one direction. There is only a need for providers (Mysterium Nodes) to rebalance the payment channel and settle earned tokens on Layer 1. 

Bi-directional payment channels are more complex and do not give Mysterium Network’s use case much value. Also, thanks to unidirectional payment channels our consumers don’t need to have apps online all the time to ensure that their funds will not be stolen. 

 

Payment Channels as Layer 3, on top of Layer 2 

As we continued to take apart different Layer 2 solutions, we came to the same conclusion. Payment channels – as described in our micropayments whitepaper – should be on Layer 3. 

  • Consumers of VPN service need at least one onchain transaction to top up their funds. With payment channels on Layer 3, we can capitalise on cheaper channel openings (account creation) and top-ups on Layer 2. So adding $1 to your dVPN app account will cost users 2 cents, not 2 dollars. This would greatly reduce friction in onboarding new users.
  • Providers of VPN service need at least one onchain transaction once in a week or so to receive their funds. In payment channels, once the value of the offchain commitment is bigger than the channel size, a settlement onchain is required. By offering flexibility we can let providers choose whether they choose to settle on Layer 2, or Layer 1.

    Why is this important? Some providers may send their funds to DeFis or exchanges often, this will mean moving from Layer 2 to Layer 1 regularly. As such being on Layer 1 makes more sense for providers with this particular profile. 

In a world of zkrollups, payment channels can be used as bridges within networks. – Vitalik Buterin

In conclusion: Multichain, cross-chain and the future of interoperability

We did all that research to find a solution for our own problem. We believe that we found it! 

Just to recap:

  • Ethereum transaction fees are killers for decentralized applications and services which depend on cheap onchain transactions
  • ZK Rollups seem to be a promising Layer 2 solution, but unfortunately, it is new and smart contract support is only on testnet. We will need to wait for at least half a year or longer. 
  • There are good sidechains such as xDAI and Matic network, but no one knows which will gain mass adoption or how they will evolve. Being tightly connected to one blockchain is a risk to Mysterium Network, or any decentralized service. It may mean a hard and complex migration in the future. 
  • Payment channels are able to be used in cross-chain transactions – this means that consumers of VPN services can hold their wallets on Layer 2, while a provider is on a different Layer 2 or even on a Layer 1 blockchain. 

Mysterium Network will be deployed on multiple chains and we already are working on cross-chain payments support. We see this as the future for most payment channel-based solutions. 

Exciting updates to our roadmap and partnership announcements coming soon. If you haven’t already – Get Mysterium VPN: Free on Testnet.

Mysterium Network Product Updates – October 2020

Mysterium Network is building a decentralised VPN. Our global network is open, permissionless and distributed. Last year we focused on finetuning our node software, and understanding dynamics in incentivised networks. This year, we’re balancing out the marketplace with focus on consumer applications. If you haven’t already, please make sure to download Mysterium VPN for Windows, Mac and Android. Let us know what you think on Discord or Twitter.

The past few months at Mysterium has seen us reroute our roadmap as we head towards mainnet launch. As with all new technologies built from scratch, we’ve encountered some unexpected challenges, which are shared with the entire industry! Building on top of a quickly evolving Ethereum ecosystem has been especially difficult for teams like us, who need workarounds for high transaction fees and network congestion. 

Aside from this renavigation, there have been some exciting developments and initiatives. Check out our latest product updates;

 

Networking research spikes: China and Iran

Our networking team is hard at work finding better ways to make us censorship-resistant. This includes overcoming the ban of our node discovery in certain parts of the world. The plan is to make our node discovery distributed, and as such, harder to block by firewalls. Increasing and securing this undetectability is an important step if we’re to reach vulnerable communities who need internet freedom the most.

 

Payments research spike

Our payments team dove deep into the various L2 scaling solutions in the market. Many of these solutions have emerged due to consistently high GAS prices on Ethereum mainnet. The goal was to evaluate both opportunities and possible limitations for Mysterium Network. We will be publishing a revised product roadmap in November. Our technical deep dive is also coming shortly.

 

Implementation of Coingate

We have made major headway into a Coingate integration. This will enable top-ups in your Mysterium account with various different cryptocurrencies (BTC, LTC, ETH, etc). Under the hood, the app will convert these cryptocurrencies into MYST and top up your Mysterium account (payment channel) with those MYST tokens. This is an important step towards lowering the barrier to entry, enabling a wider spread of adoption and more seamless access into Mysterium Network and its VPN services. This will be deployed and tested on Mysterium testnet in November.

 

Automated identity manager (Pilvytis)

Pilvytis “watches” the payment channels of given users and automatically tops them up when needed. This is important for potential B2B clients who have expressed demand for paying for VPN services in fiat. This is so that they can access Mysterium via network as a service (NaaS), guaranteeing that their consumer applications are never out of balance.

 

New WebUI

This effectively changes the node on-boarding process. Stay tuned for some changes in live environments (my.mysterium.network, node onboarding).

 

Top up flow for Android, Windows and Mac applications

In preparation for BetaNet launch and paid testnet, we have added new top up flows to our Android and desktop applications. Previously users were getting accounts for free, but in BetaNet (and mainnet in the future) they will have to top up their Mysterium account first. More detail on this in our roadmap updates in November.

 

Added referral program support

Users will be able to share referral links and receive rewards. These referral codes will give free account creation and some initial MYST to test the system. We want to reward our community and leverage their support to reach more people who need our dVPN.

 

Updated documentation for node runners (new docs coming soon)

This has been an ongoing project to clean up our documentation. We have started with node runners but this is a wider project to add more detail and clarity to our developer documentation in the future. #OpenSource

 

Want to get involved in Mysterium Network today?

Mysterium網絡 is a decentralized VPN, with a growing global residential IP node network. There are versions for  AndroidMac and Windows, currently free before our full launch.

Stay tuned for more updates. If you are interested in participating, running a node, or generally have any questions, jump into our discord channel and speak directly with our core team.

 

 

Introducing the dVPN Alliance

An alliance to make every netizen untraceable, unblockable and unhackable

After months of planning and collaborating with Sentinel, we’re excited to reveal the decentralized VPN (dVPN) alliance to the world. The new alliance is open to all Web 3 projects who want to build a better internet and create a unified standard around how censorship-resistant, privacy-focused platforms and tools are built.

Both Mysterium and Sentinel developed some of the first decentralized VPNs in the world. This initiative is more than a passion project – it’s time to step up the game. The alliance continues our commitment to protecting all online users from personal data hacks, cybercrime and surveillance. 

The internet continues to crumble in the hands of governments and corporations, as the first quarter of 2020 became the worst in data breach history with over 8 billion records exposed. Targets include high profile organisations and companies such as the United Nations, Twitter and Easyjet. Just this week, over 400,000 users of food delivery app Chowbus had their personal data leaked.

The news of our launch was syndicated in various global news publications, including Yahoo News, Yahoo Finance, Business Insider, Digital Journal, Crowdfund Insider, Blockonomi and Daily Hodl.

Marcel Velliux, a member of the SNT Foundation, a core supporter of the Sentinel network, spoke about the need for a decentralized alternative to regular VPNs. These common and popular VPNs hide the risks and flaws of their technology, such as logging and centralized storage of user data.

“There are very few enforced standards when it comes to building the platforms and tools which make up the internet today, said Velliux.

“This means that businesses, including VPNs, are free to track their users and store their data insecurely. While new legislation such as GDPR is a step in the right direction, it does nothing on the infrastructural level, which is why data hacks occur on a weekly basis.” 

dVPN alliance

This new digital collective hopes to bring more projects to the table to help shape policy and public understanding of how decentralized internet technologies make a significant social impact. The alliance has already produced an in-depth guide on dVPN exit nodes, to inform and protect users who run them. 

Our own product owner Jaro Šatkevič had this to say about the alliance;

“Fixing our broken internet is a mammoth challenge to take on. If we’re to undo decades of centralization and corporatisation, we need typically competing projects to work together. Just like decentralized, peer to peer technologies depend on people coming together for a common purpose, our cause unites teams who are dedicated to making the internet a more accessible and safe public space for every netizen.”

The alliance is founded upon a dedication to the following principles in Web 3 development; open source, permissionless, distributed logs, peer to peer and privacy. A collaboration on multi-network relays and multi-hop solutions is currently in development.

Explore the alliance here, and read the manifesto.

What is Mysterium BetaNet, and why you should join

best cybersecurity tips

We are fast approaching the official launch of Mysterium網絡, a world first pay-as-you-go crypto VPN. But before that, we’ll bring you BetaNet. Read on and learn why…

Mysterium is very different from your regular VPN. Download Mysterium VPN for free (for a limited time). Try it for yourself! Download on Android, Mac, and Windows.

Thanks to its peer-to-peer (P2P) architecture, there are no contracts, no subscriptions, and no locked-in costs. You get direct access to a global list of residential IP addresses, provided by everyday internet users around the world, so you can teleport anywhere online. 

Our custom designed payments infrastructure lets you stream, connect, share and socialise by the second. Switch on and off whenever you need, and only pay for what you actually use, minute by minute.

And because you pay with cryptocurrency (the future of money, it’s here to stay!), these micropayments are as untraceable as your browsing habits. Paying with crypto means that you’re paying for your privacy the fastest, cheapest and most anonymous way.

Mysterium VPN is the evolution of cybersecurity. It’s integrated OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols, so everything you do is protected by the highest industry standards. 

And thanks to our decentralized architecture, it’s technologically impossible for us to log anything. We connect you to residential IPs only, so there are no giant servers for us to store any kind of data. While regular VPNs claim they don’t do any logging, you just have to take their word for it. 

VPN vs TOR vs dVPN

What’s the deal with BetaNet?

We’ll soon move Mysterium onto BetaNet, a brief stopover between our free version and our full launch. During this phase, we will collaborate with our community to battle test the code and make sure everything’s working as it should. When it comes to your privacy, there’s no room for error.

We will begin with an invite only BetaNet, working with a small group of initial testers. The rationale behind invite only is to ensure a controlled environment as we transition to real P2P payments with MYST on the Ethereum blockchain.

Interested in exploring the Mysterium Network BetaNet? Use this form to register or jump into our Discord channel and let the team know.

With your help, we will make Mysterium VPN even BETA than you can imagine 😉

Following a successful BetaNet, we will transition Testnet users onto MainNet, and release Mysterium VPN into the wild for the whole world to play with.

And if you’ve made it this far through the blog… make sure to enter the MYSTEARLYACCESS code in the Gleam widget to unlock your extra points in our giveaway competition!

What is a peer-to-peer network?

What is P2P (Peer-to-peer) technology?

For centuries, human connection has never been a simple equation. 1+1 often equals 3, sometimes more. We had messengers who carried sealed letters, phone operators who connected our calls, and now Internet Service Providers who hook us into a matrix of other businesses, platforms and infrastructure owners just to send a simple email.

Perhaps the most perplexing and inconvenient way of communicating – the singing telegram…

Yet with the dawn of peer-to-peer (P2P) technology, the role of these middlemen (and women) has perhaps become obsolete.

P2P networks (and P2P software) allows 2 devices (and therefore, two people) to communicate directly, without necessitating a third party to ensure it happens. The technology has often been rejected and buried in the darker corners of the web, especially as corporations have taken over our communication channels. These businesses have dictated how we connect and communicate with one another for decades.

But before the web was ruled by the corporate letheans of today, it was once powered by the people who used it. This P2P ecosystem meant that users could connect and communicate with each other directly. The bluetooth in your phone functions similarly to this – you airdrop files directly between devices, with no need for any intermediary to facilitate or even see what files you’re sharing.

Maybe you remember Napster. They popularised P2P music file sharing. While you were downloading and sharing files from this platform, you were also spreading a new phenomenon which the internet made possible – community-powered, governed and owned technology that stretched into our social and economic realms.

Vintage P2P network. A window you recognise, even if you never used it. Source.

But first - what is the client-server model?

The internet that we know today is mostly made up of the client-server model. All machines or devices connected directly to the internet are called servers. Your computer, phone or IoT device is a client that wants to be connected to the web, and a server stores those websites and web content you want to access. Every device, whether client or server, has its own unique “address” (commonly known as your IP address), used to identify the path/route for sending and receiving the files you want to access

How does the internet “work”? A look at the client-server network model.

Servers store and control all this web information centrally. The biggest and most widely used ones are owned by companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon. These possess the computing power, memory and storage requirements that can be scaled to global proportions. It also means that a single server can also dictate the consumption and supply of resources and websites to users (clients), like you and me.

What is a peer in networking? How does P2P work?

Peer-to-peer infrastructure transforms the traditional role of a server. In a P2P system, a web user is both a server and a client, and is instead called a node. (Your computer or device technically acts as the node.)

Related: The ultimate guide to running and earning with a Mysterium node by sharing your bandwidth.

Nodes power the network by sharing their resources such as bandwidth, disc storage and/or processing power. These can be shared directly and information is distributed evenly among all nodes within the network. These sorts of decentralised systems use shared resources more efficiently than a traditional network as they evenly distribute workloads between all nodes. Together, these computers equally and unanimously power web applications. Because there is no need for a central host or server, these networks are also less vulnerable from a security and network health standpoint, as there is no single point of failure.

What is an example of a peer to peer network?

“Peer-to-Peer mechanisms can be used to access any kind of distributed resources

There are many uses for peer-to-peer networks today. P2P software have characteristics and advantages that are missing from the web today – trustless and permissionless, censorship-resistant, and often with built-in anonymity and privacy.

P2P file sharing BitTorrentsync-and-share P2P software which allows users to download “pieces” of files from multiple peers at once to form the entire file. IPFS has also emerged, where users can download as well as host content. There is no central server and each user has a small portion of a data package. IPFS is the evolution in P2P file sharing and functions like BitTorrent and other torrent protocols. IPFS mimics many characteristics of a Blockchain, connecting blocks which use hash-function security. However, IPFS does support file versioning, while blockchain is immutable (permanent).

P2P knowledge – Decentralised Wiki (Dat protocol)an article is hosted by a range of readers, instead of one centralised server, making censorship much more difficult. 

P2P money – Bitcoinwhere value is digitised, encrypted and transparent – and as easily transferred as an email. Computers or machines (nodes) with enough GPU power maintain and secure the network. Peers can store and maintain the updated record of its current state. 

P2P computing power – Golemdecentralised supercomputer that anyone can access and use. A network of computers combine the collective processing and computing power of all peers’ machines. The connection grows stronger as more computers join and share resources.

P2P communicationSignalperhaps the most popular communication app with end-to-end encryption and architecture mimics P2P tech. Their server architecture was previously federated, and while they rely on centralised options for encrypted messaging and to share files, this facilities the discovery of contacts who are also Signal users and the automatic exchange of users’ public keys. Voice and video calls are P2P however.

Peer-to-peer in many ways is human-to-human. These virtual and collaborative communities hold us accountable to each other and the technology we’re using. They offer us a sense of responsibility and comradeship. They have been called “egalitarian” networks, as each peer is considered equal, with the same rights and duties as every other peer. If we’re all helping to keep something sustained – a living digital community where responsibility is equally shared yet belongs to no one – then perhaps we can emulate these same lines of thought beyond our technical networks and into our political and social worlds.

Can a P2P network teach us about purer forms of digital democracy? 

“In peer-to-peer networking, an algorithm in the peer-to-peer communications protocol balances load, and even peers with modest resources can help to share the load.”

Popular peer to peer networks and platforms

The theory of P2P networking first emerged in 1969 with a publication titled Request for Comments by the Internet Engineering Task Force. A decade later, a dial-up P2P network was launched in 1980 with the introduction of Usenet, a worldwide discussion system. Usenet was the first to operate without a central server or administrator.

But it wasn’t until 1999, some 20 years later, that a P2P network really proved its potential as a useful, social application. American college student Shawn Fanning launched Napster, the global music-sharing platform which popularised P2P software. Users would search for songs or artists via an index server, which catalogued songs located on every computer’s hard drive connected to the network. Users could download a personal copy while also sharing music files.

Napster Super Bowl XXXIX Ad “Do The Math”

Napsters experiential marketing tactics during the 2004 super bowl, when they abandoned their P2P network to paid model. 

Napster was the dawn of P2P networks “as we know them today”, introducing them to the mainstream. It has been suggested that peer-to-peer marketplaces – some of the most disruptive startups to grace the web – were inspired by the fundamental values and characteristics of Napster. Businesses such as AirBnB and Uber kickstarted the new sharing economy, but sold us the illusion of community. As conglomerates who are simply the middleman between our peer-to-peer transactions, we also become their hired workforces without realising it. This business model relies on us to supply our own homes, cars and time to create the sharing economy, while they simply facilitate the transactions (and take a cut).

With P2P systems, we can remove them from the picture altogether. If we decentralise the sharing economy, you become the user, the host and the network itself. As peers, we are incentivised to contribute time, files, resources or services and are rewarded accordingly, with no one taking a cut. Decentralised P2P networks are transparent, secure and truly community-run systems.

A strange sharing economy infographic by Morgan Stanely, who thinks everything can be shared – including pets? Source.

Jordan Ritter (Napster’s founding architect), was quoted in a Fortune article:

“As technologists, as hackers, we were sharing content, sharing data all the time. If we wanted music… It was still kind of a pain in the ass to get that stuff. So Fanning had a youthful idea: Man, this sucks. I’m bored, and I want to make something that makes this easier.”

Napster soon became the target of a lawsuit for distributing copyrighted music at a large scale, and was consequently shut down just 2 years later. Yet this “clever-if-crude piece of software” demonstrated new possibilities for applications, and “transformed the Internet into a maelstrom, definitively proving the web’s power to create and obliterate value…”

Corporate profit, infrastructural control

While digital networking has led to an unprecedented evolution of our social and professional lives, the potential of peer networks to power those daily interactions took much of a backseat as the web started to take off in the early 2000’s. While protocols of the early Web 1.0 were founded upon decentralised and peer-to-peer mechanisms, centralised alternatives eventually took over.

Related: What does internet censorship look like in 2020. And how can decentralisation change it?

Yet since centralised systems began to plant their roots deep into our internet infrastructure, the web has been slowly rotting away underneath shiny user interfaces and slick graphics. They make the internet less safe, with servers that are routinely hacked. It makes the internet far less private, enabling mass-surveillance conducted by cybercriminals and organisations alike. It makes the internet segregated and broken, rather than unified and democratic, with nations building impenetrable firewalls and cutting off the outside world altogether.

It’s said that P2P money poses a large threat to governments, who seem concerned that without regulation and oversight, these “anarchist” networks could grow beyond their control. The crackdown on cryptocurrency in countries with rampant human rights violations, corrupt governments and crippling economies only lends to the theory that peer to peer systems undermines the very foundations of traditional government structures.

Places where cryptocurrency seems to thrive, are often the same where censorship, corruption and economic instability. 
 

First P2P Money. Next, P2P Internet.

Yet the common, centralised standards which were born out of corporate and political needs are failing us today.

It’s time to turn the tides if we want to surf the web on our own terms.

Peer-to-peer networks have opened up entirely new philosophies around social and economic interactions. Researchers from a 2005 book exploring the potential of Peer-to-Peer Systems and Applications believed that these networks “promise….a fundamental shift of paradigms.” The applications which formed in the early 1980s “can no longer fully meet the evolving requirements of the Internet. In particular, their centralised nature is prone to resource bottlenecks. Consequently, they can be easily attacked and are difficult and expensive to modify due to their strategic placement within the network infrastructure.”

In the past decade, we have seen a re-emergence of P2P protocols. These new community-powered networks are creating entirely new systems and services, that are evolving beyond the traditional concepts of P2P. This was kickstarted in many respects by Bitcoin. Its underlying blockchain technology redefined our understanding of P2P, merging it with game theory, securing it with cryptography and expanding its network with a common CPU (in the first few years, at least).

P2P access

There are many P2P “layers” that can restructure the internet itself. A decentralised VPN is one such layer, offering P2P access to information.

This dVPN utilises a blockchain (the technology underlying Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies). Anyone can be a part of the network; your computer becomes a node, acting as a miniature server. This means it can help power the entire network by directly sharing its bandwidth or IP address – and be paid for it. There is no need for a host or intermediary. The bigger this distributed network grows, the stronger and faster it becomes. Its democratic and self-governing architecture creates an open marketplace that serves a global community in need.

This is what a future without internet censorship looks like… An internet powered by people is the next stage of its technological and social evolution.

A community-run VPN is different to a regular VPN in a few different ways. VPNs are businesses which exist to turn profit. Common VPNs own or rent servers that are centrally owned, and which could store logs of all your traffic without anyone knowing (in theory). You simply have to trust that they won’t do anything with this info. And while your data is encrypted, there have been cases of past hackings.

A P2P VPN instead leverages a decentralised network so that your encrypted data passes through a distributed node network, similar to Tor. A single node will never be able to identify you or your online activities, nor can authorities and third parties. In its decentralised form, a VPN pays people (nodes) for providing the privacy service. And as with most P2P systems, a decentralised VPN has no single point of failure or attack, making it safer and stronger than centralised alternatives.

Related: VPN vs TOR vs dVPN. What’s the difference?

Power of the P

Often perceived as a more rudimentary technology, the potential of peer-to-peer technology has been shoved to the digital back shelf for some time. But as the internet evolves as a social and economic landscape, it’s slowly starting to take its rightful place in the online realm. In its simplicity lies its beauty. The most complex and honest human interactions are always the most direct and transparent.

A P2P VPN is just one example of these many different applications. You can try the Mysterium VPN for yourself and experience how P2P works. There are versions for  AndroidMac and Windows, currently free before our full launch.

Bernd Lapp on how to earn crypto by selling unused bandwidth via AVADO

best cybersecurity tips

This is a guest post by our partners over at Avado


Two months ago I started to run a package on my AVADO Blockchain Computer called Mysterium Network. This package installs a VPN endpoint on my computer which allows me to sell unused bandwidth to other users. For sharing the bandwidth, I receive a  monthly payment of up to 50 USD in Ether (you can find the exact payment rules here).

But first, let’s take this step by step.

What is AVADO

AVADO is a blockchain computer that provides access to Web3 applications. Web3 is the internet of value, also known as the blockchain economy. It’s powered by many decentralized applications (DApps).

Think of AVADO like your modem which you need to interact with the blockchain. You don’t have to have any knowledge of the blockchain itself, you can choose applications that are built on the blockchain from the integrated DAppStore. Check out the website https://ava.do for more info.

Mysterium is one of these Web3 DApps

Mysterium Network has created a dVPN for private internet access, and it’s all peer to peer. By selecting the Mysterium package from the AVADO DAppstore, you can sell unused bandwidth and earn crypto online.

Why use a VPN? Because information should be available to anyone; firewalls, geo-blocks and censorship erode democracy and freedom of expression.

You can help the internet to be great again, deserving of its name - World Wide Web.

By transforming your AVADO Box into a secure VPN connection, people in censored countries can buy VPN services from Mysterium Network. They gain access to information which their governments want to block from their view, like information on the Coronavirus.

You can help the internet to be great again, deserving of its name – World Wide Web. All you need is a stable connection and Mysterium’s easy to use DApp, so you can be in sleep mode while your AVADO earns crypto for you.

How does the Mysterium Network VPN work?

Mysterium Network has two modes: accept all traffic, or send only whitelisted traffic. Their decentralized architecture distributes traffic across the network using an advanced sharding technique. It scrambles and encrypts all data so that no single node ever has the full picture of what the user is doing. Mysterium Network’s layered protection protocols are designed to preserve your privacy – both as a user and a node.

Your AVADO Blockchain Computer becomes one of the endpoints for people using the Mysterium Network.

If you want to earn crypto with the AVADO Box, what do you need to do?

First of all, you need an AVADO Box. We ensured that the Mysterium Network package runs without friction on this hardware.

You can find the Mysterium Package in your AvadOS DAppstore.

Over time, other DApps that rent out your disk space or processing power will be added to the DAppstore.

What are my crypto earnings like?

As stated above, my Mysterium package has been running for two months now. In February I already earned 40 USD worth of Ether from participating in their Node Pilot, a research and development initiative they have been running to understand network dynamics as they gear up for mainnet. This month is halfway through and I am the second-highest on the leaderboard for my country.

What’s even more interesting is seeing which countries are using my endpoint. In my list, I see people from Russia, China, Iran, Nigeria, Turkey, Uganda, Vietnam, and many more countries. This gives me a good feeling that besides earning money, I am helping people to access information their government wants to restrict. I hope more people from these countries will use Mysterium and overcome censorship.

I hope to see you on the leaderboard soon as well and help free the web.

Written by Bernd Lapp: I am a former Advisory Board Member of the Ethereum Foundation, Founder of AVADO, Country Manager for CasperLabs and Advisor to a few Blockchain based Projects.
I like to simplify things. Nothing written in my blog posts is scientifically researched and only reflects my personal point of view. I use naive logic and have come quite far doing so.
If you like my posts, please feel free to follow me here or on Twitter or LinkedIn.


partnership with Avado.

Top 5 online hackathons; cure your quarantine boredom with bounties

Virtual is the new black.

As more and more of the world makes a pact to #StayTheFHome this COVID19 season, all planned conferences, meetups and hackathons are adapting their events for the online domain. 

So switch off Netflix and polish up your webcam – there’s hacking to be done, things to learn and bounties to win.

Funding the Future Virtual Hackathon

Organised by: Gitcoin 

Dates: March 16 – 30th

Prize: Up to $6500 per challenge

Gitcoin is a platform for you to get paid for working on open source projects. They’ve built a strong community of developers who collaborate and monetize their skills. 

They frequently host online hackathons and bounty programs, so you can check out the full list of current and upcoming virtual events, including their Funding the Future Hackathon. 

This two-week virtual hackathon features sponsors and projects from across the emerging decentralized finance (DeFi) space. Hackers will work together to build projects and tools that create, grow, and share value in brand new ways.

They’re also running a Blockchain for Social Impact hackathon, with 4 different categories: Sustainable Cities, Plastics and Pollution, Carbon Footprint, and Celp Peace and Prosperity. Winning ideas receive $6,500 in prize value (and runner up gets $1,500). Not a bad sum for trying to fix the planet. 

Can’t Be Censored Challenge

Organised by: Mysterium.Network

Dates: Applications close April 14th

Prize: Up to $5000 (first prize)

Calling all devs who give a sh*t about keeping the internet accessible and free. 

Mysterium Network is a distributed, permissionless privacy network. We’ve grown a large residential IP network for all kinds of next-gen privacy applications to be built on top of. 

Enter our “Can’t be Censored” challenge by submitting an app/DApp that fits into one of the featured categories and ultimately helps global citizens access the internet, no matter where in the world they are.  

We’re looking for new application ideas that span across iOS, Browser Plugin, Android TV, Bitcoin’s Lightning Network, Windows – or anything you like that you can build on our Network. 

Use code (and your brains) to put an end to internet censorship, data breaches and the abuse of our privacy rights.

International Women's Hackathon 2020

Organised by: HackerEarth

Dates: March 8th – April 30th

Prize: Up tp $3000

The annual International Women’s Hackathon has returned for 2020! This is its 6th edition, an all-women event and platform to showcase talents and build ideas for the Financial Technology, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Blockchain industries.

The IWH 2020 supports the UN’s theme for International Women’s Day – “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change,” and promote women developers around the globe. 

It invites women innovators, developers, creators, designers, and hackathon enthusiasts to showcase their projects to the world and take them to the next level.

GitLab Hackathon

Organised by: GitLab

Dates: May 13th – 14th

Prize: $100 to spend at the GitLab store

If you’re a dev, then you definitely have a GitHub or GitLab account. Easily join the GitLab community for this 2 day virtual event.

The Hackathon is open to anyone who is interested in contributing code, documentation, translations, UX designs and more to GitLab. Prizes are given to participants for having Merge Requests (MRs) merged and there may also be special award categories at each Hackathon.

You can choose an existing issue to work on, or file a new one. If it’s your first time contributing, a good way to join the Hackathon is to pick and fix a bite size issue. There are also issues for more experienced contributors.

Hack Quarantine

Organised by: Hackathons UK

Dates: March 23rd to April 12th

Prize: Cure the world and get to go outside again… (i.e Non-monetary)

Fight the flu! With your brain?

This fully-online, people-focused hackathon brings people together to use their skills to help combat the issues the world is facing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Work with medical professionals who will provide the knowledge and tools to empower all hackers to work on improving health, remote working and helping vulnerable populations.

Instead of having different challenges, the hackathon has separate “tracks”. Your project doesn’t have to fit perfectly into one track, it could be a mix and match of several (or all of them). Tracks were chosen based on areas where tech could be used to help solve some of the problems that the world is currently facing with the ongoing pandemic.

And for Data Scientists with a little more time on their hands…

Microsoft’s AI for Earth awards grants to support projects that use AI to change the way people and organizations monitor, model, and manage Earth’s natural systems. They’ve  already awarded 508 grants to projects with impact in 81 countries, and the list of grantees continues to grow. The four categories cover climate, agriculture, biodiversity and water.

Microsoft also offers awards to support environmental technology projects. They work with partner organizations to distribute special grants, including cash awards. You can check out these opportunities and learn how to apply. 

 

Best cybersecurity tips and tricks for a new digital decade

best cybersecurity tips

In a time when cyberattacks have reached an all-time high, it’s best we all clean up our act and give ourselves a good cyberscrub. So here are some cybersecurity tips to take you into 2020.

Good web hygiene leave no trace for advertisers or businesses to target you. But more importantly, they make it troublesome for hackers to find you.

Most hackers are lazy. They want minimal work for maximum return. If you’re an easy target, they’ll find out very quickly. If it will take even just a little effort to target you, they’ll move on to someone else. 

Don’t let yourself become a statistic in 2020. Put aside 5 minutes every day to tick each of these simple things off the list… 

The most important cybersecurity hack - secure passwords

Passwords are the first line of defence in cybersecurity, yet are often the weakest. In fact, approximately 80 percent of all data breaches are due to weak or reused passwords.

Tweets Putin Hates

If you use the same password across multiple accounts, that’s bad. If you use the SAME password for EVERY account – that’s just asking for it. It’s likely your email/password combination has been stored in a database that’s been hacked.

You can check here if you’ve been “pwned” (have an account that has been compromised in a data breach). You bet some hacker out there will try to use the same combination to gain access to your email or online banking. They can steal your money or even your identity – identity theft is on the rise.

Do a password audit. If you have Gmail for example, this can be done by going into your account settings and doing a general security check. Make sure each password is different for every account. 

Find out if your passwords have been compromised and if so, immediately change all of them. 

Google chrome can suggest new strong passwords. You can also set up an account with 1Password, which can generate and store all of your different passwords. A lot of people ask are password managers safe?

If you can’t remember or understand your password, that’s best. Memorable or human-readable passwords are weak. 

Create different emails for different purposes

It’s easy to create new, separate email addresses which can be used for specific reasons. You can have a private email account that is used for things such as banking, tax, government services and medical accounts. 

Use a different email to deal with work, clients and customers – it’s a great way to separate your personal data from your professional life. 

Have an everyday account for things like online shopping, subscription services. That way, if this kind of database is hacked (more likely than your banking or government accounts), your email won’t be traced back to those important accounts. 

Wipe cookies, clear cache, and always go incognito

Cookies are the little crumb trails that websites leave behind in your browser or device. They are user-specific, so it helps the website remember you and keep track of your activity, such as saving your login details for next time. Cookies can be harmless – but some are rotten. 

There are third party tracking cookies which can track your physical movements and see your browsing history. In one extreme case in 2016, Verizon was fined by the FCC over a “supercookie” technology which allowed third-party advertisers and websites to “assemble a deep, permanent profile of visitors’ web browsing habits without their consent.”

Safari, Firefox and Chrome are all taking measures to phase out the use of tracking cookies, with the latter starting a privacy-first initiative to make these third-party cookies “obsolete” by 2022

Due to GDPR, you would have noticed that most websites now ask you to accept their cookie settings.

what are cookies computer

Try always to choose only the necessary or required amount – this will be the least invasive. And most importantly – go “incognito” whenever you can. This will stop those pesky cookies.

If you’re using Chrome, you can easily check the cookies stored by each browser. Click on the lock symbol in your URL bar and select “Cookies”. You can then block or remove cookies you want. 

Note that this may affect your typical browsing experience. 

You can update or delete your cookies by going into your browser settings:

Offline cold storage - store important files on an external hard drive or USB

Try to store all of your important documents offline, such as scans of your passport, bank statements, contracts and other sensitive information you wouldn’t want to fall into the wrong hands. Every so often, sift through your downloads and move your important things into your hard drive, then delete them off your computer. 

best cybersecurity tips

Turn on 2FA!

Turn on Two-Factor authentication to create one extra security layer – and possibly the most annoying barrier to accessing your devices. If an app or website gives you the option to enable 2FA, always do it! Text message, biometrics, or authenticator code – it costs you nothing except a few extra seconds and is probably the one hurdle a hacker won’t be bothered to jump over.

Don’t save card details online

This one is a given. When a website asks if you’d like to save your card details for the sake of convenience – just don’t. 

Some web browsers, like Google Chrome, will auto-fill your details. You can stop that here.

Turn off location services

This one’s easy. Go into your app settings and disable location services for every app that does not require it to function. Some apps, though need your location to work correctly like Uber or Maps, can often have the setting “only track location while using app” – switch to this if possible. 

iPhone users follow this guide. 

Android users, here’s all you need to know.

why use a vpn best free vpn

Don’t use public wifi - unless you’re using a VPN

Last but not least – if you’re working from a cafe, browsing online at the airport or just connecting to some shady public wifi that pops up – try to avoid using it all. 

If you MUST, avoid doing anything particularly private, like logging into your bank account. 

If you connect to public wifi regularly, then use a good VPN (like Mysterium’s free VPN for Android) every time you need to connect to public wifi. 

free VPN. It was the world’s first decentralized VPN, too.

Time to clean up your act!

Get hack-proof best cybersecurity tips

Get hack-proof best cybersecurity tips

Ecoin and the rise of corporate cryptocurrency: Did Mr Robot get it right?

Is Mr Robot a glimpse into our tech-onomic future?

The internet’s favourite fictional Robin Hood (Elliot Alderson) – the guy who showed us why to use a VPN, has finally hung up his hoodie, forcing us to return to our own parallel reality. 

For those who have not yet plugged into Mr Robot (using a dVPN?), the series follows hacktivist group “fsociety” who are on a mission to take down conglomerate E Corp and consequently erase the world’s debt. 

The narrative picks apart some of society’s deepest flaws – including the growing divide between the top 1% and 99% at the hands of modern capitalism – with philosophical intensity.

It tells us the world’s financial and corporate structures as made of glass. The hammer that can shatter them to pieces is made of code, clever social engineering and anarchism. 

And with most systems already migrated to the digital realm, just one man and his keyboard can bring a global powerhouse to its knees. 

Back in the real world, hackers launched a ransomware attack against Travelex, the foreign currency company. The hack has crippled their worldwide systems, forcing their stores, airport counters and exchange services offline and leaving customers stranded.

Life imitating art? 

Mr Robot predicts a haunting future for our tech-dependant society based on these very real events; the modern-day revolution is digital, technology is the weapon, and everyday people are still the casualties. One of the many reasons why to use a VPN.

Related: What is happening to our internet? And can we even stop it?

Cash is dead

The world economy falls apart following fsociety’s 5/9 hack against E Corp’s global banking network. The CEO swiftly launches a new digital currency for its clients and millions of customers, a substitute for fiat cash.

There are blunt negotiations with the US Treasury Secretary, who is asked to endorse Ecoin as a government-sanctioned currency before the population turns to the alternative – Bitcoin. 

“The problem here is hard cash is fading, rapidly. That’s just the way of the world right now and Bitcoin is spreading, and if Bitcoin takes over we are all in a world of hell…

With “Ecoin” we control the ledger, and the mining servers, We are the Authority. I will make sure you have visibility into every single wallet that is open, every loan, every transaction. You want to regulate it, be my guest… I’ll give you backdoors, side doors, tracers, whatever you want.”

Is this propagandist, American corporate dream already filtering into our financial system? 

The battle against Bitcoin

For anyone familiar with the origins of Bitcoin, they’ll understand that Ecoin is a violation of everything it stands for. 

As the original and most popularised cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is a virtual currency that is issued, managed and used by everyday people. 

Emerging out of the wreckage of the global 2008 financial crisis, it promised a new monetary system that could help people stay afloat as our economies are sunk by corporate greed and government corruption. 

Termed as “the internet of money”, cryptocurrencies shift the value we assign to cash to a digital form that is as fast and borderless, yet more secure than encrypted messaging. It moves throughout a trustless, decentralized network and is secured by a technology known as blockchain. Anyone can take part and help maintain a public blockchain. 

Yet cryptocurrency – and its underlying technology – is already being hijacked by governments and businesses the world over. 

Stranger than fiction? Ecoin already exists.

While extreme libertarians designed the blockchain to decentralize government and corporate power, some fear it could consolidate it instead, undermining cryptocurrency’s anti-capitalist aspirations.

“The same hype driving cryptocurrency speculation has also attracted banks, governments, and corporations—exactly the authorities it was designed to circumvent.” – Ian Bogost, The Atlantic 

Years after Mr Robot premiered its “cash is fading” monologue and postulated Ecoin, JP Morgan announced the creation of JPM Coin, its own digital currency.

As a global lender, JP Morgan moves more than $6 trillion around the world every single day, and they want to move their infrastructure to a company-managed blockchain to instantly settle payments between their clients.  Once launched, JPM Coin will be the first blockchain-based currency issued by a major U.S. bank. 

Facebook too has joined the cryptocurrency party with their infamous Libra Coin, “potentially shaping the already vast powers of the Silicon Valley giants into a borderless, unaccountable techno-oligarchy.” 

With over 2.4 billion monthly active users, Facebook could become the largest (pseudo) bank in the world. 

There are countless other crypto-inspired initiatives being researched or launched by governments – RSCoin in the UK, Venezuela’s Petro, Iran’s Central Bank, The Public Bank of China, Senegal

But cryptocurrency that lives on a permissioned ledger – a privately-run or corporately managed blockchain – centralizes control, removing its democratic, privacy-preserving nature, and therefore any hopes of social and financial empowerment for the individual. 

Money is already seized by governments and banks habitually. Pair this with an ability to continuously monitor, track and block your entire life savings, and your control is complete. This would complement China’s political and economic strategies, which are centred around state-control and anti-privacy measures – such as their social credit system

Sovereign and corporate cryptocurrencies cannot really be considered cryptocurrencies at all. They abandon the integrity of blockchain technology’s breakthrough design; its in-built trustlessness, transparency and immutability. 

With banks, governments and businesses, nothing changes – they control the chain and the currency, from its supply and distribution to its inflation rate and pegged value.

For the hacktivist that lives in all of us...

So Mr Robot got it right. 

In a world where we are being sold the illusion of economic progress, how can we claim back cryptocurrency for ourselves? 

We can start by supporting open-source projects who are building on public blockchain architecture. We can educate ourselves about the non-speculative value of cryptocurrency (and how to use and store it safely). And we can start experimenting with a range of decentralized applications that give its users control while honouring their privacy and autonomy. 

Related: Why use a VPN? And how is a dVPN different?

Our dVPN is a blend of all these things – and more. 

For many of us, the internet is a place to freely roam. But many online citizens are trapped behind digital walls, stopping the free flow of ideas, voices and truths. 

We are building a new online era, democratising the web itself so that it’s free and open for all. Our peer to peer network powers its own VPN while laying the foundations for the new Web 3.0. Everyday web users become nodes to protect you against censorship, surveillance and cybercrime and get paid in cryptocurrency for it. Anyone can become a node to help us fight the good fight. 

There are many exciting other projects out there also trying to make this new online world a reality. 

Related: dVPN Comparison 2020. See emerging privacy-centric technologies and how they differ.

But the revolution starts with you. Will you claim back the internet? 

Join the Mysterium Army and download our free dVPN for Android.