Are there secure mesh networks?

Overview of secure mesh networking and apps

May 2, 2023

Are there secure mesh networks?

In recent years, internet shutdowns have become an increasingly common occurrence around the world. Governments and other authorities may order an internet blackout for a variety of reasons, such as to quell dissent, prevent protests, or even to disrupt the communication of criminal organizations. However, internet shutdowns can have dire consequences, cutting people off from vital information, hindering emergency services, and causing chaos and confusion.

This is where secure mesh networks come in. A mesh network is a decentralized network made up of individual nodes, which are often individual devices such as smartphones or laptops. Each node can connect to nearby nodes and pass on information to create a network that can operate independently of the internet.

These networks can be made more secure by incorporating end-to-end encryption, which ensures that any data transmitted over the network is encrypted at the source and decrypted only at the destination. This means that even if someone intercepts the data, they won't be able to read it.

In the event of an internet shutdown, a secure mesh network can allow people to continue to communicate with each other, share vital information, and even access the internet if the network is connected to a node that has internet access.

The benefits of secure mesh networks go beyond just allowing communication during an internet shutdown. They can also be used to provide internet access in areas where there is none, such as remote or rural areas, or in areas affected by natural disasters. They can also be used to create private networks for businesses or communities that want to keep their data secure.

However, there are challenges to creating and maintaining secure mesh networks. It requires a significant number of nodes to create a robust network, and each node needs to be configured properly to ensure security. It also requires a certain level of technical knowledge to set up and maintain the network.

There are several lesser-known secure mesh networks that are being developed and used around the world. Here are a few examples:

Briar is a secure messaging app that uses end-to-end encryption and operates on a decentralized mesh network. It is designed to work even in areas where there is no internet access, and it uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to create a mesh network between devices.

The Serval Project is a non-profit organization that develops open-source software for secure mesh networking. They have developed several apps, including Serval Mesh, which enables Android devices to create a decentralized mesh network and communicate with each other without internet access.

Althea is a decentralized mesh network that aims to provide affordable, high-speed internet access to underserved communities. It uses a blockchain-based payment system to incentivize people to become network nodes and help expand the network.

LibreMesh is a modular framework for creating OpenWrt-based firmwares for wireless mesh nodes. Several communities around the world use LibreMesh as the foundation of their local mesh firmwares.

WireGuard is a security-focused virtual private network (VPN) known for its simplicity and ease of use. It uses proven cryptography protocols and algorithms to protect data. Originally developed for the Linux kernel, it is now deployable on Windows, macOS, BSD, iOS and Android.

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Bridgefy is an offline messaging application that allows users to connect with one another without an internet connection or SMS

Despite these challenges, secure mesh networks have the potential to be a powerful tool for ensuring communication and information access during internet shutdowns, as well as for providing internet access to those who don't have it. As the world becomes increasingly connected, the need for secure and reliable communication networks will only grow, and secure mesh networks may be a key part of that future.

Ressources: Mesh VPNs explained: Another step toward zero-trust networking The world’s protest app of choice