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Compared to Other Systems

In order to protect their anonymity and enhance their network-level privacy, users can opt for many different technologies such as centralized VPNs, dVPNs, Tor or I2P. While these systems do enable privacy to varying degrees they all fail against powerful adversaries (e.g., state-sponsored).

We will compare existing systems to the 0 Knowledge Network.

Centralized VPNs​

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are becoming increasingly popular as people seek to protect their online privacy and security. In simple terms, a VPN is a service that allows you to access the internet securely and anonymously by creating a private network connection over a public internet connection.

Under the hood, a VPN works by encrypting your internet traffic and routing it through a secure tunnel to a remote server. This server can be located in another country, allowing you to access websites and online services that might be blocked in your own country. Once your traffic reaches the remote server, it is decrypted and sent on to its destination, appearing as if it originated from the remote server instead of your own device.

However, while VPNs can provide some level of privacy and security, they are far from effective. There are several weaknesses that can compromise your privacy and anonymity when using a VPN.

Centralized point of control​

One major issue is that VPN providers can still monitor and log your online activities, even if they claim not to. This means that your browsing history and personal information could potentially be accessed by third parties, including advertisers and law enforcement agencies.

Additionally, while VPNs can protect you from some forms of online tracking, they cannot prevent all tracking methods, such as browser fingerprinting. They also cannot protect you from malicious software or phishing attacks, which can compromise your data even if you are using a VPN.

Not resistant to metadata analysis​

VPNs are ineffective in the presence of powerful network adversaries, who can simply track the routed network traffic based on the size and timing of the data packets and thus easily correlate IP addresses with the services that are visited.

Tor​

Tor is a free and open-source software that allows users to browse the internet anonymously. The name "Tor" stands for "The Onion Router", which refers to the multiple layers of encryption used to protect users' privacy.

The Tor network works by routing your internet traffic through a series of random relays, each of which is run by volunteers around the world. Each relay only knows the IP address of the relay that sent the traffic to it, and the IP address of the relay that it is sending the traffic to. This makes it difficult for anyone to trace the traffic back to its origin, as each relay only has partial knowledge of the full path taken by the traffic.

Centralized Directory Authorities​

Even though Tor onion relays are run in a decentralized fashion, Tor relies on a very important semi-centralized component: The hand-coded directory authorities which collects and redistributes the view of the network and measurement statistics. These directory authorities are manually hard-coded into the Tor software and consist of seven to ten trusted friends of the non-profit that creates the Tor software.

Tor Vulnerabilities​

While Tor is designed to provide users with a high degree of anonymity and privacy, there are several vulnerabilities and weaknesses that can compromise its effectiveness.

State-of-the-art attacks can deanonymize encrypted Tor traffic with upwards of 90% accuracy by analyzing the encrypted packet traffic with that accuracy only increasing with the advent of AI driven surveillance.

One major weakness of Tor is the potential for deanonymization attacks. These attacks can be carried out by adversaries who control a large number of nodes in the Tor network, allowing them to observe the traffic flowing through the network and potentially identify the source and destination of the traffic. While Tor's design is intended to make it difficult for any single entity to control a significant portion of the network, it is still possible for an attacker to carry out a successful deanonymization attack.

Another vulnerability is the potential for malware and other malicious software to compromise the Tor browser. Because Tor relies on multiple layers of encryption and routing, any malware that gains access to the browser could potentially bypass these protections and access sensitive user data. Additionally, some malicious websites may be designed to exploit vulnerabilities in the Tor browser or network in order to compromise user anonymity.

Tor is also vulnerable to traffic correlation attacks, where an adversary monitors traffic entering and leaving the network and compares the timing and volume of the traffic to try to identify the source and destination of the traffic. While Tor's routing process is designed to make it difficult for adversaries to correlate traffic, it is still possible for skilled attackers to carry out successful traffic correlation attacks.

Finally, Tor's reliance on exit nodes can also be a weakness. Because exit nodes decrypt and forward traffic to its final destination, they are able to see the unencrypted traffic and potentially monitor or manipulate it. This can be especially problematic if the user is accessing unencrypted websites or services that transmit sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial data.

I2P​

I2P (Invisible Internet Project) is a peer-to-peer alternative to Tor, in which each participant acts both as a client and as a router. While the primary use case for Tor is enabling anonymous access of the public internet with hidden services supported as an additional benefit, I2P is designed as a closed ecosystem for accessing hidden services integrated within it.

The I2P network is a distributed, self-organizing network. Nodes are free to join and leave the network as they wish, and the network is designed to be resilient to attacks and disruptions. The network is divided into "families" of nodes, with each family responsible for a particular set of addresses in the network. Nodes communicate with each other using a distributed hash table (DHT), which provides a decentralized method for storing and retrieving data.

I2P Vulnerabilities​

DHTs are by default vulnerable to various attacks on the lookup mechanism that damage the privacy and security of the network. For example, the attacker can intercept lookup requests and return a parallel network of colluding malicious nodes, which can then deny service or learn about the behavior of clients.

Network analysis attacks: While I2P provides end-to-end encryption, network analysis attacks can still be used to identify users on the network. Network analysis attacks involve monitoring the traffic on the network and looking for patterns that can be used to identify users.

Similarly to Tor, upon close inspection I2P defends only against local network adversaries, but cannot protect users’ anonymity against more sophisticated adversaries performing traffic analysis. Unlike a mixnet, there is no per packet mixing.

0KN​

0KN's decentralized privacy network has many advantages over existing systems.

Decentralized​

0KN is building a fully decentralized mix network facilitator, with no trusted parties, centralized components, or single points of failure. 0KN's self-organizing and autonomous design coupled with its proof of stake incentives ensure that all of its operations are performed in a decentralized and distributed manner.

Traffic analysis resistance (metadata-private)​

0KN can be used to anonymously communicate with other users or applications, all while assuming full network surveillance. All Metadata is hidden which guarantees that sender anonymity is preserved in the face of an adversary monitoring the entire network.

Incentives​

0KN uses token-based incentives to provide the foundations for a sustainable ecosystem of privacy-enhanced services, unlike Tor and I2P.

Incentivized nodes, consisting of both servers and physical hardware, stake to participate in the network and are rewarded based on the bandwidth categories they provide on top of a base reward for their operations.

On-demand: Blame, elimination, and recovery​

On-demand blame and recovery protocols are invoked by servers to automatically reassign affected paths and eliminate malicious servers from the network making it extremely costly to attack the network on top of an already powerful threat assumption model.

Other Privacy Networks​

While other mix networks exist in various forms, 0KN uniquely provides a decentralized private substrate to incentivize a modular mix network framework supporting metadata-private networks of different revisions, bandwidth tiers, and threat models. 0KN's ZK Application Chain(s) further protect the privacy of network users and providers alike while providing ZK-dApp development utilities, including cryptographic guarantees of metadata privacy in addition to private transactions. By building protocol consensus using a Layer 2 with aggregated ZKProof transactions settled on Mina Protocol as Layer 1, 0KN's incentivized consensus mechanisms are focused entirely on relevant decentralized mix network protocol facilitations further enhancing tokenomic health, simplifying developmental complexity, and providing cutting-edge protocol flexibility with privacy at scale.

Other Privacy Applications​

While other privacy applications exist, such as end-to-end encrypted messaging apps and blockchains with privacy-preserving transaction features, 0KN's Application Layer uniquely protects metadata privacy as an inherent first-class feature. Other applications may rely on optional settings for some form of metadata privacy, for example using tor as a proxy. That optional add-on approach is frail and subject to user error or mitigated by other parties involved in transactions (such as a recipient of a message or transaction) not protecting their metadata properly. Furthermore, with on-chain transactions of some transparent ledgers, it only takes linking of one account's transaction with metadata to potentially compromise the privacy of that entire account and it's transactions with other accounts. Applications taking advantage of 0KN's Application Layer, can provide their end users with metadata privacy as a required infallible attribute of the application, with privacy by default.