An Introduction to BelNet
BelNet is an onion routing protocol based decentralized VPN service. The BelNet onion router leverages the Beldex decentralized network to route your requests.
However, unlike other onion routers, BelNet uses an enhanced low latency anonymous routing protocol.
You can anonymously browse the clearnet, send messages, stream videos, upload and download content, unblock geo-restricted content, and securely host decentralized applications.
BelNet also helps you mask your IP, browsing history, and network traffic from your Internet Service Provider, Cellular Network Provider, third parties, ad-companies, and even governments.
What are onion routing protocols?
You might be wondering why they are called onion routing protocols and not orange routing protocols. The simple answer is that the mechanism used by the protocol to encrypt and route your request is similar to that of peeling layers of an onion. An orange wouldn’t quite fit the metaphor.
An onion routing protocol hops your traffic through the nodes on a decentralized network and encrypts your traffic at each node (consider your message/traffic to be the filling wrapped around by a layer of tortilla, the encryption). It generally encrypts your traffic thrice (thus, three tortillas).
How does BelNet route your traffic?
BelNet routes your traffic through the masternodes on the Beldex decentralized network. Masternodes act as routers (relays) and they bounce your traffic through several different nodes before passing it on to the exit node.
How can you connect to BelNet?
All you need is a BelNet client – a device with BelNet enabled. You can download BelNet for Android devices on Google PlayStore.
BelNet will be launched for iOS devices, and desktop clients like Mac, Linux, and Windows soon.
What are the other types of nodes on BelNet?
There are four types of nodes on BelNet. These are,
Edge node: An Edge Node is a listening node. It is the first node and your point of entry to the BelNet network.
Transit node: A Transit Node can be a single node or a number of nodes through which your traffic is relayed. Transit nodes have only one job, that is to pass your request to the next node.
Pivot node: A Pivot Node is a node that knows the location of the Exit Node and routes your request to it.
Exit Node: An Exit Node, like the name suggests, is a node that relays your request to the destination (which may be a web server that hosts a specific website such as Facebook.com, Youtube.com, or our very own Beldex.io).
What are Exit Nodes on BelNet?
Exit nodes are prominent nodes on BelNet that relay your decrypted request to the destination server.
The exit node knows where the request should be sent to but has no idea of where it came from.
Thus, it has the sole purpose of communicating your requests to the clearnet or the public Internet. Exit nodes help you mask your IP address. The destination only sees the IP address of the exit node.
Why are Exit Nodes Important?
To understand why exit nodes are important, think about what will happen if there is no exit node on BelNet?
Your request wouldn’t leave BelNet. Without exit nodes, all you can do is browse the decentralized applications hosted on BelNet (more on this will be shared in a later blog).
With exit nodes, the gateways to the clearnet, you can anonymously access any web or mobile application like you normally do.
A website that you visit after connecting to an exit node on BelNet will see the traffic coming from the exit node and will respond to it. Thus, exit nodes add an onion routed decentralized VPN like functionality to the BelNet intranet.
Now this brings us to an important question.
Can Masternodes Serve as Exit Nodes?
Masternodes can act as Edge nodes, Transit nodes, and Pivot nodes. However, masternodes on BelNet only take on the responsibility of routers. They cannot serve as Exit nodes.
There are a couple of reasons why.
1. On the Tor network, Exit nodes are both routers and point of exits. Those who control a large number of relay nodes and exit nodes on Tor can perform systemic traffic analysis using metadata such as timestamp and frequency of requests to determine where the request is originating and which platform handles the said request.
Solution: On BelNet, exit nodes can only receive the traffic from Pivot nodes. Even if a large number of exit nodes were to be compromised, they still wouldn’t know the origin of the traffic since there is no Distributed Hash Table (DHT) or a centralized log of the masternodes on the Beldex network. One would be able to look up a masternode using the Beldex explorer but would not know its IP address or where it is hosted. Masternodes are also sufficiently distributed and so they are resistant to ‘Man in the middle’ and Sybil attacks.
2. Decoupling the responsibility of exit nodes from routers provides higher bandwidth and traffic handling capacity to exit nodes. Since exit nodes serve as both routers and exits on Tor, this means that they handle both these requests from multiple clients simultaneously.
Solution: Exit nodes on BelNet can only relay traffic in and out. They do not bounce your traffic between relays, query a DHT, or have to maintain a comprehensive list of all the relays (edge, transit, and pivot routers) on the network.
How is BelNet Better Than its Competitors?
BelNet offers a higher degree of anonymity and privacy. Its low latency makes it perfect for streaming videos and playing games online.
BelNet is open-source and easy to use. It offers you #OneClickPrivacy. You only need a working BelNet client (a mobile or desktop device with the BelNet app installed) to connect to the network.
BelNet doesn’t compromise on decentralization, security, or privacy of the network. There are over 1100 masternodes acting as relays.
Though BelNet is relatively nascent when compared to other VPNs, it has sound technology and team backing it up.
BelNet will also be introducing a peer to peer subscription service (under research).
Who can set up a BelNet Exit Node?
Anyone can set up a BelNet exit node. BelNet has a very low entry barrier to operating an exit node. (Check out the hardware requirements below)
However, you would need a Static IP to run an exit node. Static IP’s aren’t ideal for running an exit node from your home server. For example, if you’re setting up an exit node on your dedicated home server, you may run into roadblocks such as low bandwidth. Thus, for practical reasons, we recommend that you use a Virtual Private Server (VPS).
What are the Incentives to Setting up An Exit Node?
As we noted earlier, on-chain exit node incentives are a work in progress. Existing masternode operators who set up an exit node will be given priority and will be eligible for our early adopter rewards.
Exit node operators (who previously haven’t set up a masternode) will also be rewarded based on the operational costs. The details of the reward mechanism will be published in a separate announcement once it is finalized.
Hardware & Bandwidth Requirements of Exit Nodes
Below are the system requirements and the minimum specifications of a dedicated server or VPS for BelNet exit nodes.
As you can see, the entry barrier to setting up an exit node is relatively low.
And since exit nodes handle exit traffic, they are required to maintain a bandwidth of at least 1 GB.
Here’s is a quick and easy guide to set up an exit node
Speed of Exit Nodes
Here are a few standards that the BelNet dVPN aims to maintain.
- Strong Encryption 🔐
- Strict no-logs policy 📝
- Good bandwidth and speed 🤗
- No caps or data limits 🧢
- IP leak protection 💻🔐
- Globally distributed servers 🌎
- Multi-device simultaneous connections 💻🖥️📱
- Cross platform compatibility 🔀
- Works in oppressive regions ✅💯
This once again brings us to two important questions.
How fast is BelNet? And How many Exit Nodes does BelNet need for Optimal Performance?
BelNet is as fast as the relays and exit nodes in the network. The higher the number of nodes, the higher is the network’s traffic handling capacity.
The existing exit nodes can process requests at 10 Mb per second. These results are based on the current traffic load over the network.
Distribution of Exit Nodes
How many exit nodes are currently in operation?
The Beldex foundation currently hosts 3 exit nodes in Europe.
The foundation will be hosting a few other nodes in different geographies but will refrain from hosting more than what is required to handle the current traffic since true to the ethos of decentralization, we wish the Beldex community to hold the majority stake in operating exit nodes.
Where do we recommend that you set up an exit node?
We recommend that you set up exit nodes where you reside so that it helps the local communities to connect to BelNet.
If you can set up multiple exit nodes, then consider the geographies where they are less concentrated, such as
- North America
- Latin America
- The MEA region and
- The APAC region
How Secure is BelNet?
BelNet is protected against man in the middle attacks and sybil attacks through the collateralization and incentivization of masternode relays.
Anyone who wants to set up a masternode has to lock-in a collateral of 10000 BDX which they stand to lose if they try to undermine the network. Exit nodes on the other hand do not have a collateral requirement at the moment. However, they only handle exit traffic and cannot be used to deanonymize you.
Who Benefits from an Exit node?
Everyone who uses the BelNet dVPN will benefit from an exit node. However, here are some categories of people/organizations who will benefit the most from it.
- The Freedom of press foundation
- Civil Societies
- Human Rights Organizations
- Human Rights Activists
- Privacy organizations
- People seeking asylum and those living in oppressive regimes
Where to look for more information on Exit nodes?
The best way to know more about exit nodes on BelNet is to join our telegram and discord communities. You can get in touch with our contributors and developers for more information on setting up an exit node.
To add your exit node to the BelNet app, reach out to [email protected]
For feedback and suggestions on BelNet, contact [email protected]
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