Introduction to Decentralized VPN

Recently there has been quite a hullaboloo regarding decentralized VPN (dVPN). This blog post discusses what dVPN is, potential pitfalls, a few of the popular dVPN networks.

Disclaimer

Fiddling with crypto is generally a risky venture and your cashola is at risk. This is not financial advice and any crypto dabbling you do is entirely at your own risk. Prices and earnings correct at time of publishing but will vary with time.

What is Decentralized VPN?

Just like normal VPN offerings, dVPN provides an alternative egress route to the internet for your devices. Individuals use VPNs for a variety of reasons including evading their countries’ political filters, accessing content such as Hulu / BBC iPlayer which are usually geo-locked based on IP and to improve privacy whilst using public WiFi connections.

dVPNs are not operated like a traditional VPN company such as NordVPN or SurfShark. Traditional VPN providers have complete control over the infrastructure providing the VPN which may include logging of your activities or performing snooping on your usage and typically charge a monthly subscription on a long commitment length. Meanwhile, dVPN operates a different model which focuses on decentralizing the VPN network without one overall controlling entity with an easy cryptocurrency-based pay as you go billing model. Clients pay for VPN access using cryptocurrency on a per gigabyte of usage basis, they can then select which node they would like to connect via. Nodes are hosted by individuals who get rewarded for passing a client’s traffic in cryptocurrency. If a client finds a node unresponsive or slow they can easily switch to another node without being tied to a small subset of servers offered by one company.

What dVPNs are out there?

There are currently a few dVPN’s out there, Deeper Network was the first on the scene although several other notable offerings have popped up in 2021 with growth making them the hottest blockchain based projects of recent times.

Deeper Network (DPR)

Deeper Network was the first notable dVPN offering back in 2019, it comes in the form of a physical device which must be purchased and sits inline between your internet connection and the rest of your network. Your traffic is then distributed via the Deeper Network allowing you to benefit from the VPN service and other users may egress from your Deeper node earning you DPR tokens.

Pros

  • Easy to setup, plug and play
  • No monthly subscription or cost to use the service

Cons

  • Considerable up front cost buying device ($349 USD)
  • You need to stake DPR tokens to boost earnings adding to the upfront cost to maximise potential
  • Must swap tokens via Uniswap / PancakeSwap, not on popular exchanges such as Binance or Crypto.com

Website – https://www.deeper.network/

Mysterium Network (MYST)

Mysterium takes a different approach to Deeper allowing you to run nodes on any hardware, this varies from low power options like Raspberry Pis to cloud based options such as VPS, you get paid in MYST for the time clients are connected to your node and for the amount of traffic transferred. You also don’t need to be behind a specific device to use the VPN service, Mysterium has VPN clients for all popular computer and smart phone operating systems. If you’d like to use the VPN you won’t get unlimited access like with Deeper but instead pay per hour connected and per gigabyte of traffic transferred. Therefore clients using the VPN must be topped up with MYST token.

Pros

  • No upfront cost to buy hardware device
  • No need to stake tokens to amplify earnings

Cons

  • Could get expensive for high bandwidth consuming end users
  • Must swap tokens via Uniswap / PancakeSwap, not on popular exchanges such as Binance or Crypto.com

Website – https://mystnodes.com/

Others

Other dVPNs of mention include;

Potential Pitfalls

Of course there are a few downsides to dVPN;

Crypto Related Issues – Investing in crypto does not guarantee a return and token prices can fluctuate wildly.

Power / Hosting Costs – You’ll need to power your dVPN device or host your dVPN node in the cloud, your earnings may not break even with the cost of paying your power bill or hosting costs.

Illegal Content – When running a dVPN node you essentially share your internet connectivity with randomers on the internet. Typically there are no logs and with some services the end user may be totally anonymised. If a user ends transferring viewing illegal content over your connection you may end up in hot water.

ISP Terms of Service – Your Internet Service Provider may not allow sharing your connection with others in your Terms of Service and hence may take action against you or suspend your service.

Bandwidth Consumption – A busy dVPN node may eat a considerable amount of bandwidth potentially slowing your internet connectivity and making it unsuitable for connections with a bandwidth cap.

Next Steps

I wanted to give earning via dVPN a go however I didn’t wish to use Deeper as it’s a physical device and hence I could only use it at home, this obviously opened me up to potential abuse of my internet connection and also the inability to use the network whilst away from the house, so I settled upon trialing Mysterium.

I decided to host a node via cheap VPSs with unmetered traffic to keep costs down and maximise earnings (hopefully), in the end I opted for a £1.20 per month including taxes ($1.60) package from IONOS (https://www.ionos.co.uk/servers/vps#packages). Installation was easy following the instructions on a Ubuntu 20.04 LTS based VPS, and the software seems to run fine on the low-end specifications (1 vCPU, 512MB RAM, 10GB SSD). It is still too early to determine if this approach is profitable or if it earns a reasonable amount of crypto. I will leave it running for a few weeks and report back accordingly in a future blog post as well as how to use the VPN from an end user perspective.

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