This interview was recorded during the 2019 San Francisco Blockchain Week.
Sentinel is an interoperable network layer that uses multiple blockchains to create a decentralized system of resource sharing where users and applications can access a global distributed services and resources marketplace.
As the team stated on their AMA: “Sentinel is a distributed resources and Services marketplace with bandwidth as the first resource and dVPN as the first dApp or Service running on the Sentinel Network. There are additional services like Sentinel dChat aka Sentrix that utilize both storage and bandwidth on the Sentinel Network.“
Sentinel’s first implementation on the Service Chain is a very secure decentralized VPN service. This VPN is based on peer to peer technology. This means that the network runs because of people’s support instead of a central server. Centralized servers can be monitored by a Government and can be brought down by hackers. Sentinel’s dVPN service allows a person to use the VPN service or help the VPN by sharing free, unused internet with other people in the network.
$SENT is the token that incentivizes people to share their unused bandwidth with dVPN customers and earn $SENT in return for their resources contribution.
Integration with TenderMint and Cosmos
As stated by the Cosmos team, “Tendermint is software for securely and consistently replicating an application on many machines. To simply put Tendermint is a software which can be used to achieve Byzantine fault tolerance (BFT) in any distributed computing platforms.”
Keeping the above and a host of other factors like Cosmos Swap Zones, the interoperability with Cosmos Hubs, etc. in perspective, the Sentinel team has picked up Tendermint to implement the first version (alpha) of the Sentinel Service Chain and continue research and contribute back to the community.
The majority of Sentinel’s users will migrate to its Tendermint mainnet (testnet already operational). There are already thousands of active users on Sentinel’s dVPN on a daily basis (stats.sentinel.co) and all users of the dVPN will be made aware of the merits of Tendermint and the benefit it brings to dAPPs such as Sentinel.
Sentinel not only uses Tendermint as the payment consensus but also uses Tendermint for the application governance consensus. Validators responsibility includes governance of p2p bandwidth provision.
Why is this important?
When it comes to the true ownership of various VPN products and brands, it’s important to know which company is actually owning or operating the users’ data. There are two big possible issues to consider:
Data privacy & Security
If the parent companies are actually located in a 5/9/14 Eyes country, which are typically high-surveillance countries, users’ data could be wide open to those governments. If they are in Russia, China, and other authoritarian/repressive governments, they are forced to provide their data to the governments on a default basis (you can read more here Chinese surveillance analysis). The parent company may also be willing to sell user data.
Recently, US senators planned an investigation into the foreign servers used to redirect traffic when using a VPN. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) noted the following :
“If U.S. intelligence experts believe Beijing and Moscow are leveraging Chinese and Russian-made technology to surveil Americans, surely DHS should also be concerned about Americans sending their web browsing data directly to China and Russia.”
If the owning company is untrustworthy, it could bring up many problems. Parent companies that have been shown to have major vulnerabilities, or even include suspicious add-ons and possible malware, could lead to user data being stolen, or even their computers being hacked.
Sentinel's Development team
The Sentinel development team consists of a strong marketing, front-end and back-end development teams. Sentinel does not hire any remote back-end developers and currently all of the developers are working out of one location. The team has over 25 individuals composing of full-stack developers, system architects, UI/UX engineers, hardware engineers, legal due-diligence etc.
Sentinel makes use of a multi-chain architecture to ensure that there is a secure exchange of resources – bandwidth/data for now & computing with storage in the future – between people and the various applications. This network employs a three chain architecture to ensure complete privacy to users data. Due to this multi-layer architecture, the Sentinel Network is able to solve the problems with respect to scaling.
The 3 different chains of Sentinel are:
The Identity and Anonymous User ID Chain (AUID)
This is the chain that stores the Anonymous User ID of all users. The identity chain allows the users to access all the Services/dApps on the Sentinel Network by interacting with other chains that are part of the Sentinel network or not. Each UID on the identity chain is assigned a certain reputation score based on the behavior of the person on the network. Having a good reputation score helps the users to contribute & earn from the Sentinel network itself.
Sentinel Service Chain
This is the chain where all the Services/dApps of the Sentinel Network are hosted. These products are developed by the Sentinel community and make use of the various protocols and the Sentinel SDK in order to help them function.
Sentinel Transaction Chain
This chain is responsible for handling all the transactions on the Sentinel Network. All transactions are tied to the users’ ID (that is registered on the identity chain) and the linked wallet. As this chain makes use of the AUID, no user data is transmitted. Thus, ensuring complete user privacy.
Currently, whenever a transaction is made on this chain, a Solidity based smart contract is automatically executed and the specific service is launched, while the transactions are verified by the Ethereum network miners.
This chain makes use of Master Nodes to validate and secure the network. By the use of this system all the transactions are fast and cheap.
The Sentinel network is distributed and all the data is not available on a single node. This decentralized system provides a very high degree of security to its users. By using the BFT type of consensus mechanism (TenderMint Consensus Engine), the network can fully function even when 1/3rd of the Service Nodes stop working. Additionally, any attack on the Sentinel network will automatically trigger a scaling and relocation of the nodes. It also isolates the affected nodes thereby stopping the spread of failing nodes on the network.
The Sentinel SDK enables developers to create new products and services on the network. It provides quick testing and implementation as physical resources are provided by service nodes unlike very expensive, resource-intensive central servers.
A single desktop/mobile client to connect to all services
Users can use this client to access the dVPN and the rest of the services on the Sentinel Network. Users can use this client to become Server Nodes if they want and earn SENT tokens as a reward.
Secure Access, always. This was the very first use case of the Sentinel network. dVPN stands for decentralized Virtual Private Network. All users on the Sentinel network can declare their unused bandwidth on the network which will then be used to create a network of decentralized nodes that provide bandwidth for other users on the network. This virtual network that is created allows users to use the internet without worrying about their data being logged or even tracked. As this network is spread across the world, there is no way for anyone to be able to track anyone’s data online.
Sentrix helps to establish decentralized communication and runs powered by the Matrix communication protocol of the Sentinel Network. It is comprised by Decentralized Chat and Decentralized VoIP. All interaction happens in a p2p decentralized manner with complete control of the user’s data. All messages on Sentrix can be chosen to have a finite lifitime. Once this limit is reached, the messages are deleted from all the nodes on the network. This coupled with the decentralized nature of the nodes provides users complete privacy.
Sentrix is Sentinels answer to the growing privacy concerns around centralized trust based communication services that store sensitive user information. Facebook, WhatsApp, Google etc fall under this category.
Sentrix is a secure Communication Suite running on top of the Sentinel Service Chain, utilizing the power of decentralized, peer-to-peer network, developed using proven communication protocols like Matrix Communication Protocol (References 1,2)
What does Sentrix comprise of?
Sentrix will operate without a DNS and thereby is completely decentralized, operating only in a peer-to-peer fashion with utmost security using Ratchet Algorithms like OLM and MegOLM & more.
The lifetime of a message on Sentrix is finite. Thereafter, all messages exceeding that finite limit, will be removed from the servers throughout the network. A backup option will be provided as part of the Desktop/Mobile Client, where messages will be encrypted and saved locally. This finite time might initially be decided by the network. Later on, users will have an option to define the same themselves.
Swixer - Swaps with Mixer
Swixer is Sentinel’s first utility that allows anybody to simply convert their cryptocurrency tokens online while keeping their data away from prying eyes. User’s privacy is enhanced by Swixer’s cross-chain swaps between the Ethereum chain and other blockchains which possess a working zero-knowledge protocol or privacy layer within the protocol.
What makes Sentinel dVPN different?
Whenever people think about a VPN, first thing that comes to their mind is changing their IP address. They forget about the encryption standards that have been promised. Provable no-logging is not possible because analysis at the hardware level is always possible. However, provable end to end encryption is completely possible and thats what the Sentinel dVPN brings to the community.
If you wouldn’t trust a closed-source Bitcoin desktop wallet or mobile wallet, why would you trust a closed-source desktop or mobile dVPN.
The community is slowly beginning to understand the importance of dVPN networks and the trust and assurance that they bring over centralized solutions. The dVPN sector is one of the weakest in the alternative currency industry. According to the following article:
Spider VPN Partnership Announcement
Sentinel is making a partnership with Spider VPN (www.spidervpn.org), a UK based organization focused on the proliferation of their own pro-privacy router (will be the worlds first fully open-sourced router). SpiderVPN will be integrating the Sentinel dVPN at the firmware to enable it’s users to connect directly to a SpiderVPN ‘Enterprise-Grade’ Private Net running on the Sentinel Network.
Sentinel will be integrated into the SpiderVPN router
Fist of all: What is a router?
Routers are devices that create the gateway to bridge 2 or more networks with each other. A router connects multiple devices in a network and ensures that there is proper distribution bandwidth. It applies encryption standards to data routed through a wireless network.
What is the problem with existing routers?
The most common mainstream routers do not exhibit any provability of encryption or even routing and are completely closed source and do not offer the public the ability to conduct unbiased code review. They do not currently provide users with the ability to securely use a VPN which provably does not have the ability to manipulate the integrity of the VPN connection (manipulate encryption etc..) Also, they do not provide the option of monetizing spare bandwidth.
Why is SpiderVPN partnering with Sentinel?
The Sentinel dVPN network is a fully open-sourced blockchain based dVPN network that provides users with the absolute assurance that there is no manipulation of encryption settings/routing protocols in the back-end. If anyone tries to manipulate the encryption settings during the node docker setup, the docker image will not even connect to the dAPP network.
#2 Increased Anonymity
The Sentinel dVPN network is one of the first VPN networks that plan to establish a relay system which would ensure that even the exit node would not know the user’s actual IP. In the future, users of SpiderVPN router can opt to tunnel their traffic through the provable relay network.
Once the Sentinel network reaches mainnet, users can configure their router to be apart of the relay network (or an exit node if user can avoid DCMA requests) and monetize on their unused bandwidth that will be consumed by active users on the Sentinel dVPN network (will happen after switch to Tendermint).
The ability to access the data held by VPN providers, the researchers said, could enable governments or other organisations to identify users and their activity online. This potentially puts human rights activists, privacy advocates, investigative journalists and whistleblowers in jeopardy.
The Importance of Open-Source Code
NordVPN’s compromise shows why it is imperative to use open-source dVPN networks. In addition, any closed source VPN provider is capable of internal manipulation.
VPN services must be held to the same standards that Cryptocurrency wallet services are held to. If a user does not feel comfortable downloading a wallet that has not been peer-reviewed to examine the potential for manipulation, it does not make sense for the same user to trust an obscure closed-source VPN client. Trust only open-source.
The $SENT team has been actively working on private networks since 2018 starting with the 0.0.43 client, and is now preparing to launch the functionality for public use. Sentinel will enable enterprises and individuals alike to host their own encrypted network of nodes.
For example, an online gaming organization can host nodes on it’s own private net and rebrand Sentinel’s open source mobile/desktop clients in order to provide a cost-effective self-branded VPN solution to its own userbase instead of recommending an alternate VPN solution.
The launch of private net functionality will mark the commencement of Sentinel’s enterprise initiatives. The integration of the SpiderVPN ecosystem with Sentinel private nets will be the initial focus. Not only will SpiderVPN host a private net for it’s thousands of hardware router users, owners of the SpiderVPN routers will also be allowed to host their own network that they can securely access when they are outside of their residence/office.
The Sentinel development team is very hard at work and is looking forward to a series of critical releases.
Sentinel has active development and there are 5+ updates waiting to be shared to the community at the right time. These include:
– Sentinel dVPN on Tendermint
– Sentinel Node Hosting with OpenVPN & WireGuard
– Sentinel’s updated website
– Sentinel Desktop Client v2
– Private Nets within Sentinel
– Sentinel iOS Application
– Progress on the development required to kick start hardware integration with the SpiderVPN team
Sentinel is expected to launch its mainnet on Tendermint in Q4, 2019 or Q1, 2020.
Until today the Sentinel dVPN users have exchanged 150TB of bandwidth.
Biweekly update 4th November — 18th November