What is I2P?
A peer-to-peer (P2P) anonymous network that protects you from censorship, government surveillance, and online monitoring. It scatters your traffic, so there is a low chance that a third party will be able to intercept it. By using I2P you can also get encrypted access to the dark web. In a way, it serves a similar purpose to the Tor network, but there are some differences between the two. You can also use it for general browsing, instant messaging, file storing, and website hosting.
Invisible Internet Project (or I2P) is a peer-to-peer (P2P) anonymous network layer tool, which protects you from censorship, government surveillance, and online monitoring. It scatters your traffic so there is a low chance that a third party will be able to intercept it.
How does I2P work?
I2P is a decentralized P2P network, so its operation relies on its community. It encrypts your traffic with end-to-end encryption and routes it via a volunteer-maintained network. This network is scattered all over the globe and consists of over 50000 devices.
With your traffic dispersed around the world, it will be very difficult to spy on.
I2P is a highly secure network. Here’s why:
- It uses end-to-end encryption and protects the endpoints of your data route by turning them into cryptographic identifiers, secured with public keys.
- I2P’s uni-directional tunnels separate incoming and outgoing traffic and provide more privacy. Because of these inbound and outbound proxy routers, senders and recipients don’t need to reveal their IPs.
- Unlike Tor onion routing, I2P uses so-called garlic routing. This divides your message into smaller messages, called cloves. These are all encrypted and travel separately until their destinations. As a result, it is almost impossible for an interceptor to get hold of the whole message and perform traffic analysis.
- The system is completely decentralized. As mentioned above, I2P is spread around thousands of different devices and doesn’t rely on a single entity. If one device is hacked, it won’t compromise the whole system.
I2P pros and cons
I2P comes with both advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll cover here.
- Highly secure network, protecting you from hackers, third party surveillance, and other interceptors. Thanks to I2P’s garlic routing system, traffic traveling through the tunnel is hard to decipher, so even if a hacker manages to intercept your data, they will struggle to view it. This reduces the threat posed by man-in-the-middle attacks and boosts your overall security.
- Uses packet switching, which distributes balancing across different peers, so performance is more efficient. Peers are less likely to be overwhelmed by traffic, and if one is not functioning properly, other peers can take their place.
- Enhanced privacy. By using an I2P tunnel, you can protect your privacy from the invasive practices of companies that wish to monitor and monetize your data. Internet service providers often log your internet activity so they can sell that information to advertisers. Using I2P limits the amount of data companies can associate with you, protecting your personal privacy.
- Difficult installation and usage. It requires quite an extensive installation process and browser configuration for it to work. However, there are plenty of accessible online tutorials.
- Mandatory logging. Users have to be logged in to the system for their content to be accessible.
- Less anonymity when browsing indexed sites. I2P can’t guarantee anonymity when you browse indexed sites, so it is not that private when you browse the surface web. Using VPN protection can solve this problem.
- A smaller user base than Tor means I2P has fewer network nodes and is marginally more vulnerable to attacks.
I2P vs Tor
While these two network overlays can be similar at first glance, they are quite different:
- I2P network is more decentralized than Tor as it still uses tools for overall network managing and statistics gathering.
- I2P uses garlic routing, which is different from Tor’s onion routing. Onion routing carries a message as a single entity, while I2P divides it into encrypted parts. This makes it harder for hackers to spy on you because even if they intercept one fragment of your data, it won’t be useful without the others (and that’s without even considering the fact that all the data packets are encrypted).
- I2P doesn’t use a single path for message load balancing, but instead distributes it across different I2P peers.
- I2P is primarily a dark web tool as opposed to Tor, where the primary function is to browse the web anonymously. But it also has dark web access functionality and can allow you to visit dark web sites if you wish to.
I2P vs VPN
While I2P and Tor are useful for cases when you need extreme anonymity, they slow down your traffic. Besides, that level of privacy is not essential for everyday usage. For daily safety, downloading a VPN is a much simpler and more effective solution, even if you use those two network overlays already.
A VPN provides strong encryption and preserves your privacy by hiding your IP address. It also routes your encrypted traffic via remote servers, so no one can intercept it. Moreover, it is extremely easy to use and doesn’t reduce your speed significantly.
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