Privacy should simply be the default of the internet. But the way the internet operates today, the consequences of surveillance threaten all of us, from stolen funds and identities to profiling and human rights violations.
Nym protects even against the most powerful, passive adversaries that can observe every packet going in and out of your internet connection. With Nym, you can use the internet without fear of being watched.
Nym protects privacy at the network layer by encrypting and relaying your internet traffic through a multi-layered network called a mixnet. In each layer of the mixnet, mix nodes mix your internet traffic with that of other users, making communications private and hiding your metadata (IP address, who you talk to, when and where, and more).
The Nym mixnet is incentivized and decentralized. Users pay a fee in NYM to send their data through the mixnet. By pledging an initial bond of NYM, anyone can run a mix node. Node runners are then rewarded in NYM tokens based on good quality of service, doing the work of mixing packets and providing privacy for the end users. This is called ‘proof of mixing,’ similar to how Bitcoin rewards miners for mining new blocks. The reward mechanism enables the mixnet to scale and decentralize.
Nym can work with any application. From Bitcoin to ZCash, no current “layer 1” blockchain provides “layer 0 privacy” for the peer-to-peer broadcasts used in every transaction. Nym can provide network-level privacy for any blockchain and other generic applications. From Bitcoin to instant messaging, developers can build their applications on top of Nym for network layer and metadata protection of their users.
The most broadly used network-level privacy solutions are VPNs (virtual private networks). Although VPNs provide the ability to hide the precise IP address of a user, they are a centralized solution. This means that VPN providers can fully observe all network traffic between their users and the public internet, knowing exactly what services its users are accessing at any given time! Furthermore, VPNs offer no protection against powerful network adversaries.
Tor tries to solve this surveillance problem by routing a ‘circuit’ through three relays, which provides better privacy than single-node VPNs. Tor encrypts traffic multiple times, so that only the final Tor node can see the destination. However, Tor’s anonymity properties can be defeated by an entity like an intelligence agency that is capable of monitoring the entire Tor network’s ‘entry’ and ‘exit’ nodes. This is because Tor does not add timing obfuscation or cover traffic to obscure the traffic patterns in circuits, which can be used to correlate flows and deanonymize users. However, Tor’s design is expected to continue to be “best of breed” for web-browsing and other stream-based traffic.
Nym can provide more powerful network-level privacy for cryptocurrency transactions, e-mail, instant messaging, and any other message-based traffic. Unlike Tor, Nym’s mixnet design guarantees network anonymity and resistance to surveillance, even in the face of adversaries capable of monitoring the entire network, by adding cover traffic and timing obfuscation. The Nym mixnet is decentralized, rather than operated by a trusted provider like a VPN, as it uses blockchain technology and economic incentives to decentralize the network. Nym node operators are incentivized to run nodes and provide good quality of service and uptime. Software updates are governed through community adoption as decisions are made by the node operators and token holders.
It’s clear that internet privacy has never been weaker, but it’s not down for the count — and the ground is ripe for change. Our experienced, committed team is excited to be taking the first steps.
We look forward to your code contributions and comments on GitHub.