There currently exists no functioning protocol that can provide strong guarantees against the leakage and harvesting of metadata – for instance, data regarding the timing of communication, and the graph of who is communicating. Nym is an open-source, decentralized, permissionless and incentivized system that provides full-stack privacy, allowing developers to build applications that provide users with strong guarantees against metadata surveillance, at both the level of network traffic, and the level of authentication and payments.
The most popular network-level privacy solution currently is the VPN (virtual private network), which provides network-level protection via an encrypted tunnel between a user’s computer and one run by a VPN provider. VPNs are often misconfigured, however, and even when configured correctly, don’t offer real privacy or adequate resistance to censorship.
VPN providers can also fully observe all network traffic between users and the public internet, knowing exactly what services its users are accessing at a given time. The user must trust that the VPN provider is not using their information in a malicious manner or keeping logs.
The Nym mixnet is an anonymous overlay network that provides strong network-level anonymity, even in the face of powerful systems capable of passively monitoring the entire network. The mixnet is decentralized, with no trusted third parties, and so does not require a trusted provider like a VPN. More importantly, Nym provides superior privacy to VPNs and can support high-quality of service and low latency through incentives.
Tor is the best-known anonymous overlay network today. Unlike VPNs, Tor provides a ‘circuit’ of three hops that provides better privacy than single-node VPNs, so any single node in Tor can’t deanonymize traffic. Tor’s onion-routing encrypts traffic between each hop so that only the final hop, the Tor ‘exit node’, can decrypt the package.
However, Tor’s anonymity properties can be defeated by an entity that is capable of monitoring the entire network’s ‘entry’ and ‘exit’ nodes, because while onion-routing encrypts traffic, Tor does not add timing obfuscation or use decoy traffic to obfuscate the traffic patterns which can be used to deanonymize users. Although these kinds of attacks were thought to be unrealistic when Tor was invented, in the era of powerful government agencies and private companies, these kinds of attacks are a real threat. Tor’s design is also based on a centralized directory authority for routing.
While Tor may be the best existing solution for general-purpose web-browsing that accesses the entire internet, it is inarguable that mixnets are better than Tor for message-passing systems such as cryptocurrency transactions and secure messaging, and we believe well designed incentives can also enable the use of Nym as a general purpose decentralized VPN. The Nym mixnet provides superior privacy by making packets indistinguishable from each other, adding cover traffic, and providing timing obfuscation. Unlike both previous mixnet designs and Tor, the Nym mixnet decentralizes its shared operations using blockchain technology and uses incentives to both scale and provide censorship-resistance.
I2P (‘Invisible Internet Project’) replaces Tor’s directory authority with a distributed hash table for routing. How to design a secure and private distributed hash table is still an open research question, and I2P is open to a number of attacks that isolate, misdirect, or deanonymize users. Like Tor, I2P is based on ‘security by obscurity’, where it is assumed that no adversary can watch the entire network. While security by obscurity may have been cutting-edge at the turn of the millennium, such an approach is rapidly showing its age.
Nym’s cutting-edge mixnet design guarantees network anonymity and resistance to surveillance even in the face of powerful deanonymizing attacks. Unlike I2P, Nym adds decoy traffic and timing obfuscation. Rather than a centralized directory authority or distributed hash table, Nym uses blockchain technology and economic incentives to decentralize its network.The Nym mixnet can anonymize metadata even against government agencies or private companies who can monitor network links and observe the incoming and outgoing traffic of all clients and servers.
The Nym credential system decentralizes the functions of systems like Facebook Connect while adding privacy. Personal data has become a toxic asset, even to companies who base their entire business around it, as evidenced by the hack of Facebook’s OAuth identity system in 2018 and the subsequent release of the data of 50 million users.
Unlike Facebook Connect and similar OAuth-based services like Sign in with Google, traditional usernames and passwords, or even public/private key pairs, Nym credentials allow users to authenticate and authorize data sharing without unwillingly revealing any information to a third party. There is no central third party in charge of the credentials, and users remain totally in control of their own data, disclosing it only to those who they want to. A user can store their data wherever they want (including on their own devices), and unlike alternatives like W3C’s DIDs, a user does not store anything on the blockchain, offering better privacy.
As privacy loves company, systems wanting to ensure network-level privacy should scale to millions, if not billions, of users – but existing anonymous communication designs that scale to millions of users are secure only against weak adversaries or otherwise require high latency, while existing systems offering strong anonymity scale only vertically.
Nym’s mixnet design combines strong security properties with horizontal scalability, enabling it to operate effectively even with millions of users. The Nym network increases in speed as more traffic and users are added, as less cover traffic and timing obfuscation are required as the anonymity set grows.
Networks like Tor and I2P suffer for lack of an economic incentive system, leading to poor performance and difficulty scaling. Tor is dependent on crowdfunding and government grants that don’t cover the costs of running and maintaining its own network relays. There are no incentives to run a Tor relay, much less a higher-risk entry or exit node, so Tor has trouble adding the nodes necessary to scale with increased traffic. One sign of Tor’s lack of an incentive model is the geographic uniformity of its relay locations.
In contrast, Nym uses economic incentives to ensure the system always scales to meet any increase in demand.
The Nym protocol will allow operators to run mix nodes in the network and earn rewards. If you are interested in operating a Nym mix node, sign up for updates below.
Techniques to enhance privacy on the network level and how they compare to Nym.
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Nym is being developed by some of Europe’s most established coders and researchers in privacy-enhancing technologies.
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Harry Halpin speaks with neuchateleconomie.ch about Neuchatel and privacy startups
Harry Halpin - Monero Talk, December 2019
Dave Hrycyszyn and Ania Piotrowska at Devcon, October 2019
Harry Halpin, Claudia Diaz, Dave Hrycyszyn, Jess Hrycyszyn and Jedrzej Stuczynski at ETHBerlin, August 2019
Gian Volpicelli, Harry Halpin, Richard Stallman and Naomi Colvin, August 2019
Harry Halpin at Web3 Summit, August 2019
Claudia Diaz at DAPPCON, August 2019
Harry Halpin at DAPPCON, August 2019
Harry Halpin at Chaos Communication Camp, August 2019
Harry Halpin at Web3 Summit 2018
Claudia Diaz and Harry Halpin at CPDP 2019
Harry Halpin at Binance Labs
Claudia Diaz at COSIC, KU Leuven 2019
Theo Goodman at Ethereum Meetup, January 2020
Cronavirus pandemic and the rise in call for privacy technology
Nym Technologies, invites the general public to take part in the next phase of its mixnet platform’s user testing.
Harry Halpin speaks to CoinDesk's Leigh Cuen in Davos, about the World Economic Forum, privacy and the future of blockchain.
Libra wants to be far more than simply your internet money...
Privacy-focused Nym Technologies unveils new code for its decentralized identity system
A privacy-centric startup has turned to a private token sale to raise $2.5 million
Both Nym Technologies and Chainspace are the products of the genius of George Danezis
Nym's objective is “to anonymize the world.”
Nym's team now includes former Chainspace chief executive, and co-founder
Harry Halpin discusses why he is involved in privacy preserving technologies, and cryptocurrencies and unpacks the anti-encryption bill called the EARN IT bill.
Threats & opportunities of hyper-digital connection in the time of COVID-19
The cypherpunk trifecta: network-level privacy, uncensorable electronic cash and a way to prove things anonymously, are discussed with Harry Halpin in this podcast.
Many people naturally associate blockchain to cryptocurrency but many interesting blockchain use cases exist beyond crypto and that's what we explore in this podcast.
Claudia Diaz, Chief Scientist at Nym talks about mixnets, the history of privacy technology and how there may be opportunities for new privacy tech in this post-pandemic world.
In an interview with New Money Review podcast, Dave Hrycyszyn, co-founder and CTO at Nym, talks about the battle for internet privacy in an era of mass surveillance.
What is the role of privacy in the modern age, and how do we go about protecting it?
Claudia Diaz in discussion with Lunaticoin podcast - In Spanish.
Coconut is a novel selective disclosure credential scheme supporting…
We present “Ouroboros,” the first blockchain protocol based on…
An open and free internet requires privacy as a native property. Nym, created by an all-star team of privacy researchers, is the best way to achieve that. We are proud supporters of what they are doing.
Partner at Binance Labs
Despite progress in zero-knowledge proof techniques for transaction-graph privacy, network-level privacy remains an open problem. Mixnets are a promising approach for this, and so the work Nym is doing on making mixnets practical for blockchain applications is really important.
Assistant Professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Identity is one of the key roadblocks for blockchains to achieve large-scale adoption, but it's also a potential privacy nightmare. Nym is the project that can offer an identity solution that truly respects our rights to privacy.
General Partner at 1kx
People were killed, tortured or imprisoned during the 2011 Tunisian Revolution because they relied on insecure tools to communicate and organize. Everyone, but most importantly activists, have an urgent need for a revolutionary project like Nym to be able to communicate without fear. To build a democracy we must first fight surveillance and there is one way to do it: anonymously.
Mass Surveillance is like radioactivity – you only feel it when it is too late.
CEO at bity.com
We are finding ourselves being ushered into a 1984 hive-mind world where our dreams, loves and weaknesses are nothing more than dossiers up for trade by corporate and government interests. It's time we started to lay the road to alternative futures; incentivized, decentralized mixnets are a critical piece of the puzzle.
Web 3 Foundation
Decentralized identity is one of the greatest challenges facing the 'web of transactions' – without it, there will be continually increasing rates of fraud and cyber attack. Nym provides what is perhaps the first really secure authentication system for identity.
Nym is embarking on an ambitious mission to change the shape of the internet. We’re looking for passionate, experienced and ambitious researchers, developers and community builders to join our rapidly expanding team.See open positions