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Is a Decentralized Internet the Solution to Outages?
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Is a Decentralized Internet the Solution to Outages?

by Justin OConnellOctober 22, 2016

“Attacks that we witnessed today were possible mainly because there is a centralized infrastructure which could have been targeted,” said Piotr Janiuk, CTO of  Golem,  which seeks to decentralize the internet using peer-to-peer technology. “The attack itself isn’t easy to carry out, but it is obvious that even the backbone infrastructure behind the Internet contains single points of failure which are prone to such malicious activity – even though the infrastructure may comprise multiple machines. As of today, the trend is to move towards distributed solutions and the main problem is the lack of standard way of setting up the infrastructure.”

Golem  is among a legion of technologists who believe a decentralized everything is the best way avoid problems such as the widespread outages experienced in the US, the UK and western Europe going into the weekend.

The source of the Friday outages is New Hampshire internet infrastructure company, Dyn, which endured two separate cyber attacks within hours of each other. Dozens of websites, including PayPal, Twitter, Spotify, Netflix and others went down.

Netflix

Netflix was among several major websites that saw an outage.

 The outages began in the Eastern United States before affecting other parts of the country. Gizmodo cited five dozen sites seemingly affected by the attack, including CNN, HBO Now, Mashable, the New York Times, People.com, the Wall Street Journal and Yelp! affected by the attacks. U.S. officials from the U.S. State Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation opened an investigation into the attacks.

Amazon reported the outage affected users in Western Europe.  Twitter and select news sites were out in London on Friday evening. PayPal Holdings Inc. experienced outages in “certain regions” affecting payments.

Spotify, Reddit, AirBnB, the Verge all reportedly suffered outages. Amazon.com Inc’s web services, cloud computing service, reported outages, as well. That meant companies like Visa, Twitter and Netflix went down. Could all this be avoided with a decentralized internet?

“If you do a Google patent search you will see the state-of-the-art there,” Maidsafe CEO David Irvine told Hacked.com. “It’s very new.”

Maidsafe, and it’s SAFE network is modelled on colonies in nature, servers and intermediaries do not make logical sense and we sort of all know that in our deepest thoughts. Some say a decentralized internet is not possible.

“DDOS depends on a target, in SAFE the target is everyone’s computers,” Mr. Irvine said.  “An analogy would be DDOS is like swatting a large fly, in SAFE the large fly is a mass swarm of mossies which makes it hard even with 8 arms filled with fly swatters.” Mr. Irvine hopes the SAFE network might help to form the primordial soup of a decentralized internet.

SAFE uses xor addressing, a type of data structure used in computer programming, which means any node outages will be covered by the nearest nodes.

“This makes those mossies like zombie mossies or perhaps hydra like,” Mr. Irvine said.

This is stretching a little, he admits. Since no such decentralized networks exist, it’s difficult to know what one’s vulnerabilities might be. Maidsafe employs university research to help answer some questions. Maidsafe uses data chains, which are different from blockchains.

The Maidsafe model does not assume every node/person needs to know and agree on all information like in the Bitcoin blockchain model. “Detailed information is local and less detailed is more global,” he said. “This is like posting a letter, the closer to the destination the more info is known of the destination.”

The Golem Project’s vision of a decentralized internet entails running the ‘Golem app.’

“It’s hard to predict the definite direction in which distributed solutions will go but if infrastructure similar to Golem (production version with lots of nodes) was up and running then any service running on top of it would be resilient to this type of attacks,” Mr Janiuk told Hacked.com. “Of course at this point there is still a lot of work in the field not only because the infrastructure has to be deployed but also all sorts of utilities which are available today would have to be tailored to this new paradigm.”

He adds: “It seems that the centralised Internet of today is more and more pushed to its limits and the change of paradigm is inevitable in a longer run.” If the Internet is to grow and thrive, then the decentralization seems to be one of the best (if not the best) options.”

Images from Shutterstock.


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