NYM Network Review: Infrastructure for a Privacy-Preserving Internet
The way the internet is set favors big corporations and very powerful players, but not the user. As valuable as this might be for some, the internet is irreparably broken.
Evidence gathered over the years irrefutably shows that internet surfers, regardless of their locations, are pawns to the excessively intrusive online surveillance system.
Tera bytes upon terabytes of freely generated data are harvested daily for various purposes. Corporations sell this data without user’s knowledge, which can further be used for advanced profiling, micro-targeting, or even behavioral analysis.
The Internet is Broken
The coronavirus pandemic worsened this assault on privacy.
In the guise of contagion, governments—assisted by internet giants—are stepping their surveillance, sifting through personal data, to blatantly and unapologetically intrude on users’ privacy.
The bad news is that the only way this will change is through fundamental changes–involving changing the very core of the internet.
Such changes will be the silver bullet that may—just may—overcome powerful adversaries like intelligence behemoths and internet companies from indiscriminately trawling data of billions of people to serve their nefarious ends.
And it is easy to see why.
With more internet penetration and the shift to digital platforms, more people are demanding internet services. Accordingly, there ought to be some privacy-enhancing services serving the interest of the end-user.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), as it is, don’t necessarily protect against privacy. They may mask IPs, but what they do is shift trust since most are offered by centralized providers.
On the other hand, despite its solid reputation, Tor is “ineffective” against a well-capitalized, efficiently oiled surveillance machine that can track the whole network.
But the situation is worsened by the fact that Tor, even though helpful in masking IP addresses, offers comparatively low quality of service as the nodes are volunteer run. Moreover, the project now has cash crunches, threatening further to slow down the building of the privacy platform.
For good reasons: Privacy will transform the internet, making it secure and safe for everyone to use.
Introducing the NYM Network
The Nym Network is a privacy platform founded on cypherpunks ethos and ideas. It is setting off to solve the privacy problems facing the internet today, using a decentralized, incentivized mix network, combined with private credentials. The two technologies together make users’ data private at both network and application layers.
The project says it can sufficiently protect privacy even against the most advanced data trawling and monitoring techniques deployed by powerful adversaries who can view the entire network.
From this, NYM Network vividly demonstrates that it is part of a movement to sustainably transform the internet by integrating tools guaranteeing privacy for all users using the web.
Developing the platform is a Swiss-based startup, NYM Technologies. Some of their partners and initial funders include Binance—the world’s largest exchange by client count, Cosmos—an interoperable blockchain that recently activated its IBC–, Blockstream—who are actively building Bitcoin, and Status.
Distinguishing Features for a More Private Internet
Developers announced an incentivized test network in early April 2020.
In three weeks, there were over 3,000 NYM mix nodes joining the network.
From this test network, users could experiment with NYM Mixnet, sending privacy-enhanced packets through the network.
They do this by encrypting users’ traffic, mixing them with others, and making their packets indistinguishable.
The NYM multipurpose mixnet prevents traffic analysis from agents that can instantaneously scan the whole internet and illegally extract valuable data.
Additionally through NYM Credentials, users can allow third parties to anonymize any arbitrary ‘key : value’ pairs. As such, users can decide to reveal part or all of their data, at their discretion, whenever there is a need for compliance.
The NYM infrastructure includes a NYM token that will be released later this year. Mix node operators are rewarded in NYM tokens for their support for privacy as a public good, and as incentives to provide good quality of service to the users (as opposed to the volunteer-run projects like Tor). It also helps in making the network decentralized, sustainable and resilient.
Nym is planning to launch publicly later this year, and next year they are aiming for their technology to be adopted by the big players. Their team is well-known to be friends with Signal and Ben Laurie, the Head of Security at Google, is one of their advisors.