Brave Introduces VPN⁰ to Improve Privacy & Performance of Distributed Virtual Private Networks

  • Brave shares plan to incentivize a decentralized VPN system with utility token like BAT

Brave has announced VPN⁰ to tackle the issues — lack of performance, privacy, and traffic accountability — faced by distributed virtual private networks (dVPNs).

Decentralized VPNs are solutions where users share their resources in exchange for other users’ bandwidth or even cryptocurrency compensation.

While dVPNs make strong privacy claims, Brave says

“they also carry the risk that a user will inadvertently have their machine used to transmit potentially harmful or illegal network traffic.”

As such, the company founded VPN⁰ which is based on the idea that dVPN nodes should be able to decide which traffic they want to carry.

Foundation for a decentralized VPN system

The first dVPN with “strong privacy requirements and high performance,” as Brave puts it, is built around a Distributed Hash Table (DHT) atop which several policy preserving mechanisms have been designed.

Brave’s virtual private network allows relays nodes to control the traffic to transmit without learning what it contains, through the cryptography technique zero-knowledge proofs.

However, realizing this goal in a decentralized system had several challenges in the form of private whitelist sharing, zero-knowledge traffic proof, and balancing performance and strict privacy guarantees.

Brave integrated VPN⁰ with BitTorrent’s DHT (Mainline) and ProtonVPN, a popular VPN provider and benchmarked its performance.

Though the preliminary results show the feasibility of the approach, there is a need for more research to speed up its zero-knowledge calculations.

“We believe the strong privacy guarantees offered by VPN⁰ will foster the development of future VPN solutions and protocols.”

Brave sees this as the foundation of a decentralized VPN system that may even be combined with a set of incentives around its utility token BAT. Users carrying traffic would be compensated in BAT while users would pay for VPN service in BAT as well.

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