DavidBalaban

David Balaban is a computer security researcher with over 10 years of experience in malware analysis and antivirus software evaluation. David runs the Privacy-PC.com project which presents expert opinions on the contemporary information security matters, including social engineering, penetration testing, threat intelligence, online privacy and white hat hacking. As part of his work at Privacy-PC, Mr. Balaban has interviewed such security celebrities as Dave Kennedy, Jay Jacobs and Robert David Steele to get firsthand perspectives on hot InfoSec issues. David has a strong malware troubleshooting background, with the recent focus on ransomware countermeasures.

The list of problems of the modern Internet is very extensive. It includes the influence of governments and global corporations, as well as cyber-attacks. It may seem that the era of privacy, Internet freedom, and network neutrality is coming to an end. Let’s try to figure out if blockchain technologies can help to solve these problems.

What’s wrong with the modern Internet

The number of Internet users is constantly growing. There were 3 billion Internet users in 2015. According to analysts’ forecasts, by 2020 this number will grow to more than 4 billion. However, as the popularity of the Internet grows, the accompanying problems are becoming more and more evident.

The question of the efficiency of the net neutrality principle is one of the main threats to freedom on the Internet.

Constant attempts of governments and corporations to monitor users prevent the smooth development of the Internet. Such attempts violate our privacy rights. This is a big problem not only in countries like China or Iran but also in developed democratic states like the US, Germany, or Australia.

Cybercriminals’ harm is huge too. According to the Cybersecurity Ventures report, the damage from their activities exceeded $3 billion in 2015. By 2021, this figure will increase to $6 billion per year. One of the reasons for this is that modern security tools are often too complex to be effectively used by ordinary people.

And finally, the quality of the Internet infrastructure in different countries is not the same. A a result, the speed of its operation may differ greatly. This is facilitated by the fact that the content becomes “heavier” every year (Full HD video).

It would seem that the number of problems is too big to be solved by one solution, but not everything is so bad.

New hope: blockchain

The blockchain technology gained popularity due to the fact that it was used to create cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and its analogs. However, digital money is not the only use-case for blockchain tech. The explosive growth of projects based on this technology in a variety of industries – from finance to real estate sales proves blockchain can be applied anywhere.

It can also be used to “repair” the modern Internet with all its problems. Here is what you can do with the help of blockchain.

Fighting censorship

The blockchain technology makes the Freedom as a Service (FaaS) approach possible. It enables IT projects to provide users with services that cannot be controlled by governments and their special services. For example, the Privatix project team develops its own FaaS, which is an SDK for developers of mobile apps. It allows routing the traffic through encrypted communication channels of their distributed blockchain platform.

Developers will be able to guarantee their users that products created using this SDK will not be blocked in a particular country. A similar (but centralized) data transfer system and the corresponding SDK is provided by the AnchorFree project.

In addition, with the help of blockchain, it is possible to even create a “parallel Internet” in which access to web pages will be preserved even if they get blocked by ISPs. This concept is being realized by the developers of the Archain project. With the help of a special browser extension, users can add their favorite web pages to a blockchain archive, which no special services or hackers will be able to alter or shut down.

Communications protection

All over the world, VPN services are used as a tool for circumventing geo restrictions, such as VPNs for Netflix. VPNs create encrypted connection and change the user’s IP address (usually to the address of another country where access to the blocked website is allowed). One of the most famous peer-to-peer projects here is Hola.

Classical VPN providers use dedicated servers and standard protocols such as PPTP, OpenVPN, L2TP, SSTP, etc. Any centralized VPN has a drawback: its operation can be blocked using DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) technology. In addition, these services use the addresses of specific data centers – which are easy to identify and block.

A decentralized VPN which based on blockchain technology allows you to switch between multiple entry points (home users’ computers with private/residential IP addresses. Such connections cannot be detected using DPI.

P2P network can unite tens of thousands of participants who can share their Internet tunnels and even get paid for it using the built-in cryptocurrency. Connection to such a network is provided through applications or routers that use special firmware. Luminati.io (from the creators of Hola) is an example of such service.

Luminati allows you to use nodes with residential IP addresses. It works on the basis of Hola VPN. Most people use it to bypass geo-blocking and the service sells their IP addresses to corporate customers. There are almost 32 million IP-addresses in the system and this number is constantly growing. No country can block such huge decentralized network. Again, as said before, it is not difficult to block data centers’ IP addresses of popular centralized VPN services.

Increasing download speed

Web content is becoming increasingly “heavy”. The popularity of Full HD video, online games, and streaming services is growing. Now, to accelerate the data loading, specialized content delivery networks (CDN) are used. Such systems consist of thousands of caching servers that deliver content to users using the optimal routes.

Despite the fact that centralized CDN work quite well, the factor of high prices for their services becomes more and more important. Average prices for content delivery range from $0.05 to $0.3 per Gigabyte. Unsurprisingly (according to forecasts) the volume of the CDN market will exceed $23 billion by 2021. Today its value is estimated at $6 billion.

Decentralized CDN services which are based on blockchain technology can reduce the content delivery price by 5-10 times. In order to achieve this, the network must consist of a large number of nodes. The BlockCDN project started implementing this scheme.

Bottom line

Today, free Internet is needed only to end users. Governments and corporations seek to limit it, whether it is blocking unwanted websites or analyzing users’ private data.

However, blockchain technology can solve these problems and leave the Internet free. Blockchain can make it faster and create a new financial ecosystem.

Above, we have described some of the services and solutions that are available to users already today. The quantity and opportunities of blockchain projects will only grow in the future.