Zen is an encrypted, zero trust technology which can be used to securely transmit and store data, may it be private communications or financial value.
The approach taken by the team in order to ensure complete anonymity to Zen users when they using this platform is based on hardening the main components that malicious intruders can try to leverage information on their victims.
The end to end encrypted system integrates the best available technologies to create an open platform, by mixing the three core functions that in other blockchain based infrastructures are traditionally separated, namely transaction of funds within wallets, competitive governance and communication between parties.
Zen code has been completely open sourced to allow external auditors and third parties interested in ensuring the quality of the security offered by this system.
The main goal by the developers is to offer a collection of services and products built around a stack that employs zero knowledge proof. This distributed blockchain platform leverages the state of the art techniques to evade censorship from ill intentioned governments or third parties, a set of communication tools based on a completely encrypted protocol and a model to establish governance designed around a strong set of ethics to make sure that the basic human right of privacy and safety can be guaranteed.
These capacities can be for example used used to serve people who are right now avoided from vital services such as banking and human rights because of absence of identification proof, capital, and secure channels. They can likewise be utilized by people who want to take possession over and adapt their private information, or, for instance, by groups that desire to build up a niche bidding network or offer off the grid alternatives to state run, centralized energy services.
Zcash started by adding fully anonymous transactions to the Bitcoin code base, allowing people to decide whether they want to use normal, transparent Bitcoin addresses or shielded, analysis resistant wallets. The first of these two are transactions controlled via a set of public and private keys, logged on the blockchain. Because they happen just like on the Bitcoin platform, these allow rapid compatibility with applications built on that technology; the second set of transactions, called Z_transactions, operate on wallets where the balances can be shielded. Third parties cannot tell the amount of funds that are transferred to one of more wallets of this kind, and if funds are moved to an open account the input shielded addresses remains confidential. This allows for transfer of funds to open wallets without having to disclose where they came from.
From there, the team created Zclassic which, thanks to the removal of the founder’s reward share, the creation of open source mining and multi platform wallets, helped growing an horizontal, solid open source community willing to evolve this platform towards what it currently is. Zclassic set the basis for what ZEN is today, a set of tools that help secure communications, data and file sharing, and open banking activities.
The zen platform offers a cohesive system where these different elements interact to create a secure environment for its users.
Nodes that want to operate along this network need to offer privacy and performance, in order to make sure that the platform doesn’t suffer from central bottlenecks that could slow down or impede access to a certain part of the audience; they need to guarantee resilience and resist the attacks run by malicious third parties trying to stop operations or try to alter them via man in the middle attacks; they need to make sure that they are secured and that communication between them and the wallets is encrypted end to end, so that no outsiders can snoop into communication or value transfers.
These nodes are the foundation upon which the blockchain is built, by allowing and validating transactions from wallet to wallet and acting as a decentralized computing platform. Within Zen, nodes transmit data that is encrypted on TLS coupled with Perfect Forward Secrecy. To ensure more nodes approach security and cryptography seriously, a share of the mining income is assigned to them as a reward. Standard nodes At the same time, standard nodes that implement less safety measures against penetration and eavesdropping allow the network to grow and continue operating during heavy attacks.
The information extrapolated from metadata is one focal problem that other crypto currencies failed to tackle, for example when trying to organize the transfer of a certain amount of funds with someone. Within Zen, users can be assured that the whole process, from communication within parties, transaction of funds and receipt verification happen in a safe environment which cannot be tainted by eavesdropping or attacks.
The tools that have been incorporated in this ecosystem are: ZenTalk, a communication network that utilized ZEN’s blockchain to share and store messages. Once messages are sent they are logged on the blockchain and will be stored forever; ZenPub, an anonymous publishing platform tat used IPFS or GNUnet to ensure that documents are shared anonymously; ZenHide, a tool that allows users to partake in crypto commerce countermeasures (say, from an ill intentioned government trying to censor or block crypto trading), by using domain fronting.
Shielded transactions on the Zen Cash network can have an 1024 chars message attached to them, encrypted together with the relative transfer data on the blockchain.
This permits Zen users to communicate on ZenTalk for a tiny fee, straight to one z_address wallet or to a channel where multiple people participate. ZenTalk Messages are encrypted end to end with AES 256 paired with Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS), the staate of the art for what concerns secure and anonymous digital communication
Zen allows users to upload and publish IPFS or GNU Net documents in the same 1024 characters text field of the z_address used by Zen Talk. This added anonymous communication layer effectively helps author and audience publish documents anonymously, optionally to a channel which will help publishers create communication channels with a niche audience.
en Hide allows vendors that live in countries to use Domain Fronting and therefore complete transaction with their buyers even in a highly censored environment. Domain fronting works via HTTPS by using different domain names, one is used for DNS requests and TLS Server Name Indication, while a different domain appears within the encrypted HTTPS communication layer. Censors wonÂºt be able to differentiate between connections that use this cloaking method and those who do not, and can only opt for complete network shutdown or domain blocking. By using popular networks the malicious censors need to use, such as content delivery networks, blocking can effectively be too expensive.
Zen is designed with decentralization in mind, and this applies to a governance model that empowers the community behind ZEN. The core idea behind this is that different DAO models will compete in offering the best service at the minor expense for the community participants so that the best way to manage this project can be found in a natural way, which will lead to open elections within the group. The best DAO will help govern how the project is run, much like a succesful government, mainly within the following range of tasks:
– Servers to validate the quality of Secure Nodes
– Decentralized servers to host internal forums
– Bots to moderate the Slack rooms
– Zen Websites and blogs
– A platform to propose changes and vote them
– Repositories for binaries, such as multi platform wallets
Zen is definitely not the only blockchain technology that has tried to tackle the anonymity and security problems in the post Bitcoin world. The list of other privacy conscious crypto currencies is gigantic and within the same ranks we can find ZCash, Zclassic, Dash, Monero, ZCoin, Bytecoin, ShadowCash, Boolberry, together with the other zero-knowledge currencies using zk-SNARKs (a technology that ZCash pioneered, by the way).
What makes Zen special is the approach to create a set of tools, and not a currency exclusively, that can guarantee a safe place where to operate in total privacy. The strongest point in favor of Zen, compared to other tokens focused on anonymity and security, is the strong set of ethics upon which its core is founded upon.
Forecasting is a difficult task when it comes to crypto currencies, even more when they are so new, but we see a brilliant future for Zen and the peaceful and productive ecosystem its community is trying to build. The decentralized, utterly inclusive, voluntary, and flexible group they’re creating are certainly advanced, compared to the static, centralized, one-size-fits all versions perpetuated within the twentieth century.
What is in for the future of Zen Cash? The team is working on several aspects of the project and each problem has to be tackled following the ethics behind Zen, ensuring safety and decentralization of service.
The software behind ZenCsh nodes has to be written to make sure that the platform runs without problems. The Zen development team is working hard on it, fortunately much of the code base is based on Z Classic so the challenge can be addressed with a solid head-start. The first problem that has to be tackled is protection against replay attacks, which happens when chains are split and funds transferred between them could generate extra coins by broadcasting transactions. A cryptographic salt can ensure that fund transfers can only work on one chain without being able to be recognized on the other.
Tracking nodes that have been flagged as Secure Nodes is another priority, especially because those nodes will generate rewards for miners. To be classified as such, nodes need to have more than 4GB memory, an high speed internet connection and need to be secured against attacks.
Together with Zen Cash node software, the development team is going to release wallets that work on Linux, Mac and Windows. These would be compatible -and, possibly, share the same codebase- to those used on Zcash and Z Classic.
Secure messaging via 1024 characters text messages attached to the transaction is the next step on the roadmap, and will set the basis for the Zen Talk platform within this ecosystem.
The Zen Cash governance system is another important step in the development of this platform, and in order to work several parts will need to be implemented, such as Proposal System which will allow uses to suggest a change, a Voting System which will permit deciding democratically, a Funding Allocation System that will permit stacking coins as budget and a Governance Reporting System to make sure everything is logged on the blockchain.
While the project is well defined and based on a solid set of ethics, it’s important to remember that this project is basically still in its infancy. Developers are currently working for free on Zen Cash and it’s impressive how this was created without any sort of Initial Coin Offering or Investor pouring money in.
In my opinion the main value behind Zen Cash is that it offers complete anonymity to its users, not only for what concerns the transfer of currency funds and economic assets, but also other collateral services which are normally not addressed by blockchain based platforms, such as end to end, cryptographically secure messaging, decentralized governance and voting and anonymous publication of documents. As governments and financial entities grow interested in the world of crypto currencies, mainstream adoption will grow and these agents will try to implement solutions to make sure that their gains are left intact (such as taxes or governmental contracts). As laws will begin to try put a dent into decentralized digital economy i think it’s safe to assume that we’ll see privacy conscious try to find valuable alternatives to keep out of censorship’s reach.
Zen is a dream coming true not only for crypto currency traders and those who want to maintain a high level of privacy, but also all those entities — such as people living in despotic countries, political activists, people who’s basic human rights have been denied — that need to make sure that their funds and assets are kept secure, and also require a mean to communicate freely and circumvent censorship.
For these reasons it is suggested to keep an eye on this project and consider adding it to your long term holding portfolio and, once the codebase is solid, possibly to invest into a ZenCash secure node to gain tokens passively.