Oxen is a technology stack – a vast ecosystem of privacy-focused applications powered by the $OXEN cryptocurrency. Oxen’s mission statement is also reflected in the fact that its technology is open-sourced on GitHub, “so developers can use what we’ve built as the foundation of a new generation of privacy tools and services,” as stated on the Oxen Build webpage. The project covers a series of common use cases with a strong focus on privacy, security and anonymity.
Behind Oxen is an Australian not-for-profit organization called Oxen Privacy Tech Foundation (OPTF website). The purpose of the organization is to support the development of free, open-source, secure and privacy-oriented technologies.
Oxen currently offers:
- $OXEN cryptocurrency
- Session private messaging system
- Lokinet anonymous internet access
At the heart of Oxen’s offering is its blockchain and cryptocurrency, $OXEN. A Proof-of-Stake crypto built on a consensus mechanism called Pulse, it was previously known as $LOKI before being renamed $OXEN — a name change that has been merely “cosmetic,” according to the announcement.
Like the rest of the ecosystem, $OXEN, unsurprisingly, has a strong focus on privacy and is built on CryptoNote, just like Monero. In the words of the Oxen team, total anonymity translates into fungibility, meaning that “individual $OXEN coins cannot be traced, tracked, or denied based on where they have been or what they have been used for”.
$OXEN tries to differentiate itself from Monero and other privacy cryptos by aiming for performance in terms of transaction speed. Rather than having to wait nearly 30 minutes for a transaction to complete, $OXEN claims that its payment system called Blink enables instant transactions by using groups of Oxen Service Nodes.
An Oxen Service Node can join the network when it has a total of 15,000 $OXEN (currently worth about $15k AUD) across no more than four contributors. This appears to be a choice deliberately made to strengthen the network and prevent certain types of attacks, which would be unlikely and economically counterproductive.
The Oxen team has implemented a number of applications to demonstrate the use of its technology stack: Session and Lokinet. Let’s take a closer look at both.
Session: Free Anonymous Secure Messenger App
Session is a messaging system born as a rebranded and more standalone version of Loki Messenger (as explained on Loki Network blog). It is currently used “by more than 150,000 people in more than 200 countries,” according to Oxen, and is available for both mobile (Android, iOS) and desktop (Mac, Windows, Linux).
Session is best for:
– Sending messages anonymously and securely.
Session features include:
- Email and phone number are not required to create a Session ID.
- End-to-End encryption of conversations with password recovery.
- Data stored on the device by Session can also be encrypted with a PIN.
- Onion routing of messages to hide the user’s IP address.
- It does not collect metadata: your geolocation and device data is not collected.
- High transparency: 100% of the code is open source and the platform has undergone a security audit with publicly available Oxen Session Audit results.
The core principle behind the development of the app is to provide a user-friendly, secure and privacy-first experience to its users. To deliver on its promises, Session uses a system called onion requests to send messages. It is a decentralized onion routing network (similar to Tor), designed so that no server ever knows the origin and destination of a message. In layman’s terms: “this ensures that your messaging activities don’t leave a digital trail”.
Your data is temporarily stored on multiple service nodes that automatically delete the data as soon as your device picks up the messages. Notably, there is currently no backup feature available – although this is reportedly planned according to Session’s FAQ page. Also coming in the future is a subscription service called Session Pro, which allows a set of monetized Session functions using $OXEN for transactions.
Lokinet: Free Anonymous Onion Router
Lokinet strives for secure, anonymous and censorship-resistant access to the internet. Technically, it is a decentralized onion router that uses Oxen service nodes as relays. This brings together the privacy benefits of routers like Tor on the one hand, and the robust and decentralized nature of blockchain on the other.
Lokinet is best for:
– Protecting your personal information while browsing the Internet.
– Hosting a website (such as WordPress) or web application with a hidden address on a Lokinet service called “SNApps” to avoid censorship, and it can be set up in a 1-click installation.
Lokinet features include:
- Hides your identity and IP address via the Lokinet onion router.
- Lokinet service nodes are incentivized by being paid in $OXEN token to keep the infrastructure running safely.
Practically speaking, installing an app that is currently only available for Windows and Linux requires. Lokinet allows anyone to access the internet as they normally would, using their browser of choice, but in a more anonymous way. Unlike Tor, it supports more protocols, allowing not only website reading, but also media streaming and video conferencing. However, be aware that applications that require WebRTC or BitTorrent protocols will not work within Lokinet, as explained on the FAQ page.
Similar to using a VPN service, Internet Service Providers may be able to see the connection, but may not know which websites are accessed through it. However, the VPN service would know that, as well as have access to other personal information (such as IP addresses), which would require users to trust it. Lokinet’s decentralized approach results in no node in its network having complete information about any given user, thus protecting their privacy.
Under the hood, Lokinet uses the Oxen blockchain and more specifically requires service node candidates to wager an amount of $OXEN before they can register as a service node on the network. In addition to rewarding anyone who wants to contribute a node to the network, this also limits a cybersecurity risk (more specifically, Sybil attack resistance). Future developments include the use of $OXEN to enable the purchase of specific Lokinet addresses (instead of long, complicated strings of letters and numbers) and the creation of a marketplace for exit nodes.
How to try out Lokinet:
- Download and install the router.
- Click the big red on/off button on the app and it should turn green.
- Go to http://probably.loki and if that works then you have the router turned on.
- To browse the clearnet anonymously, type “exit.loki” in the Exit node entry box and then click the ‘Enable exit’ toggle (it should turn green).
- You can then search for “my IP” and see if it changes to a different location. Note: If it doesn’t work at first, just turn the router on and off again and click on the ‘Enable exit’ position.
To learn more about Oxen’s exciting project, visit https://oxen.io/