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Research: I2P based anonymous network protocol developed via Rust programming language

With more and more people concerned about their online privacy, anonymous network protocols have been advancing at an amazing rate. However, the levels of privacy of data transmission on public networks still represent the weakest link in the chain of information security. Presently, popular network encryption tools, such as VPNs, utilize a single link network framework. Whenever a node fails within a single link framework, encryption is compromised, even if user’s anonymity is preserved.

The onion routing anonymous network protocols deploy transmission and reception of data across the same network. The Invisible Internet Project (I2P) implements a decentralized, multi-link framework that utilizes the distributed hash list (DHL) for encryption key infrastructure and Kademlia as the data transport algorithm, which can guarantee the privacy of transmitted data across the public network.

A recently published research paper introduces a novel I2P based anonymous network communication protocol programmed via the Rust language. Throughout this article, we will take a look at this novel distributed network protocol.

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An I2P based decentralized anonymous network:

This novel distributed network protocol is built on top of the I2P anonymous network protocol with an innovative identity model that aims at offering optimum levels of privacy. This new network protocol aims at rendering the internet “owned by the people” again via truly distributed secure communications, private social networking, and the ability to conduct P2P transactions without having to rely on any form of third parties.

The internet was invented to offer the world open, decentralized means of P2P communications, yet one’s PC and smartphone do not provide this anymore, as the internet currently heavily relies on central servers and data centers. These central intermediaries tie the user via extreme forms of vendor locking, e.g. a user cannot change their service provider (ISP, email, storage services, etc) without revealing one’s identity and private data. Moreover, these vendors generate profits via taxing users’ payments, spying on them, and censoring them for various political reasons. For example, some countries in Asia currently require a digital identifier for every online payment a user makes, and they reward or punish their citizens on the basis of collected online data.

The new I2P based communication protocol is designed to protect users from all of this. A user’s identity will be represented by a cryptographic key which will be owned by the users themselves only and no one else. Communications and data storage will be organized around this unique identity. A user’s data will remain encrypted, until they decide to share it. Moreover, the protocol permits the user to have multiple unconnected identities, e.g. for family, work, hobby, etc. The network protocol is truly decentralized and developed via Rust on the I2P network, so users’ safety is guaranteed. The protocol allows the user to add their very own node to the network, over which they will have total control.

Design of the network protocol:

The network is similar to today’s cellular mobile networks, as it offers features such as calls, SMS, push notifications, data connections, and others. It is a form of an overlay network that is built on top of the I2P network, yet it can also be built on top of other transport layers such as TCP, Tor, mesh, and others. The network allows the user to possess a “cell tower” that can join or disconnect from the network as desired. Choosing a “provider” represents the sole trustful part of the network’s system. The network protocol relies on cryptographic keys rather than phone numbers for various forms of encrypted P2P communications, and applications also rely on this form of identity.

All calls and user data transmitted across the network are encrypted and cannot be tampered with or spied upon with contact identity. The user is totally free to move their identity and contacts to any provider or application. The system enables users to use different identities for various purposes, e.g. family, dating, work, etc. The user can restore their identity via a “cold wallet”, following the loss of a device. The network is of extreme resilience and will only die with the last cell. The network is designed to support incorporation of any form of decentralized application on top.

Final thoughts:

This novel I2P based anonymous communication protocol aims at decentralizing the internet, which is as it was originally intended be. It is to be noted that this project is still in early experimental phases, yet its code is open source which enables developers to build decentralized applications (dApps) on top of it.

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