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Is Managing Identity on the Blockchain the Next Revolution?

 8 min read / 

An identity is a difficult thing to lose.

Beyond some of the widely covered data breaches in the United States, it is hard to see how critical the state of the identity management system truly is.

When having the misfortune of losing one’s passport on a trip to some island far off the Eastern coast of Africa, security was by far the most challenging issue faced. The cumbersome process of re-applying for a new passport prompted the thought that if one could store all of their valuable information somewhere on some remote network that only they could own and access, then one would not have to wait to be assigned a new form of physical identification.

Therefore, one of the best solutions for solving the pain points of Identity and Access Management is by adopting a biometric solution. The world at the tipping point, experiencing waves of underlying trends central to identity management. The more one struggles to thwart sophisticated fraud and theft incidents, the more it becomes clear that security is, fundamentally, a human identity problem.

Enterprise Security Is Reactive by Nature

Human beings are increasingly leaving trails of digital signatures in almost every interaction with technology. Think about the number of times one does things with technology that go beyond its original intent:

  1. One’s daily jogging routine is captured on my android’s GPS because #SamsungHealth
  2. Daily texts and email exchanges? They leave a digital imprint too.
  3. One’s Facebook presence is sparse and yet Facebook owns one’s relationship architecture.

Sure, one’s penchant for technology deserves to be celebrated. After all, it is technology that drives almost every radical innovation to its completion. Alas, almost everything one does today, whether that be intentional or unintentional, is leaving a digital trail behind. One describes enterprise security as being reactive in nature because each time the user or the enterprise leverages some consumption of technology, it is increasingly impossible to predict all the vulnerabilities that will ultimately infiltrate through that medium of consumption.

Data Sovereignty

People only tend to care about identity management when their identity is compromised. While penning this article, Mark Zuckerberg was testifying before Congress in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which tens of millions of Facebook users had their personal data harvested. Many of the solutions one is hearing Congress call for are comprehensive privacy solutions. The “privacy bill of rights” that would require Facebook to get its users to opt-in before using or sharing their personal data has already been proposed.

While the buzz is all about the Facebook data breach these days, one should know that Amazon looks at data too. Every time one makes a purchase on Amazon, Amazon generates a record of their consumer behaviour that maps out their preferences, purchase history and spending habits. The truth is, data leakage is not something that should be taken lightly. In a time where one faces the threat of data abuse, it is imperative to have a solid understanding of what the framework of each of these services looks like.

At the heart of every service that one leverages through technology, there is a model that embodies one’ss digital essence. This abstracted model contains data that can be 1) easily breached or 2) traded without one’s consent.

Schematic behaviours feed into this model to create a sense of who the user is. How else would Amazon know that someone “might” like almond butter? Could it be because they have a record of that someone buying peanut butter? Fragmented data is constructed into this convenient model that gets someone just what they need. But if fragmented data can be be used in profiling consumer preferences, then the same fragmented data can be employed by a different online channel to manipulate someone’s online presence. It is only a matter of time before someone defaults on someone else’s credit card.

Identity Access Management and Decentralized Data-Defined Security

Could a blockchain security solution be the one that ultimately resolves identity-borne vulnerabilities? If one develops a solution that allows the user to centralise and store their digital genome onto the blockchain in a way that reinstates total ownership of the service nodes to the user, then the user can both reclaim their data sovereignty and prevent their digital entity from being compromised.

The blockchain technology is now adequately mature for one to easily embed a bundle of applications that would control the type of data that one shares with third-party services. A more potent solution would sustain the storage of all valuable data such as medical records, immigration information, intellectual property, credit histories and personal identifiable information (PII), all in one localized disc.

On HYPR CORP and Decentralized Data

Given its distributed cryptographic technology, blockchain is addressing the “lack of trust” problem between counter-parties at a very basic level. On one hand, enterprises are now replacing passwords with SSL certificates while, on the other, the enterprise system is getting audited for every new iteration with a greater level of transparency. Moreover, a decentralised Domain Name System means that the enterprise is now barred from those much dreaded DDoS attacks.

HYPR CORP, for example, is a startup producing a decentralised biometric security platform onto which biometric credentials are encrypted before being distributed across all media. Digital photos, iris scans and fingerprints are all typical methods through which the enterprise consumer can scan their individual biometric identities and pre-register them into one single database. A biometric solution that feeds off this database has great value for an enterprise that is looking to replace their use of passwords.

The disruptive principle behind a decentralised biometric authentication lies in the “one-to-one” matching scheme. The one-to-one matching scheme has the ability to destabilise hackers by forcing them to loop from one device to the other for each of the individual encrypted biometric.

HYPR’s architectural fortress shields the enterprise from data breaches as follows: first, it encrypts each biometric record onto its platform, then it decentralises the biometric data across millions of devices, and tokenises their use each time the account needs to be accessed. Besides the appeal that HYPR’s passwordless authentication has on UX, the fact that enterprise users are protected against the loss of their registered mobile, desktop or IoT devices, is a huge advantage. Since HYPR stores all biometric records on-device, it protects the end-users by enabling the enterprise to disable the public keychain to the lost device once the theft is reported.

HYPR and the Enterprise Market

A technology that has been around for so long is still in its early infancy in the security market. Biometrics is by no means a new concept, yet this phenomenon is just starting to seep into the computing world. Perhaps there are few people who actually understand what biometrics really is. Do people have a flawed understanding of how to integrate the data-defined security factor into an existing system of biometrics, or are they clueless as to the number of ways such a system can be scaled for optimality?

A biometric authentication is always going to play a key role in validating a user’s identity for smart contracts, but the world needs engineers who are already developing biometric systems to morph the concept into a viable security solution. Centralising the bulk of biometric credentials is still seen as a liability by many, and rightly so. It is a huge risk to deploy the repository at scale but there are ways around easing the process of validating the user’s identity.

So far, HYPR has successfully implemented a solution that determines the user’s identity in small contracts by enhancing security and usability upgrades. While the focus is on scaling its deployments, the HYPR encryption suite also takes to aligning with standard-based protocols like Fast Identity Online (FIDO) Alliance: by reinforcing these protocols enterprises can ward off the risks that they would have otherwise encountered.

One should be optimistic of what lies at the intersection of biometrics and data-defined security and 2018 will be an interesting year for biometrics where one will see more of the consumer market supporting the enterprise market in their attempt at going passwordless. As is the case in the high-tech security market, the race between the cutting-edge security gurus and the equally talented hackers will define the core business. Whether that shift will turn out to be a positive or negative development is yet to be seen but this uncertainty is what should empower engineers to build a robust and reliable biometric security system.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

    WP_Comment Object ( [comment_ID] => 131837 [comment_post_ID] => 146217 [comment_author] => Kathleen [comment_author_email] => [email protected] [comment_author_url] => [comment_author_IP] => 162.158.34.32 [comment_date] => 2018-05-10 08:55:38 [comment_date_gmt] => 2018-05-10 07:55:38 [comment_content] => So rather than each individual being responsible for themselves and their own information, everyone will be responsible for (a piece) of everyone else. Not sure this makes me feel safer. But then again, new technologies are always scary at first. @Matt J. let me quess: you're always looking over your shoulder for Big Brother? [comment_karma] => 0 [comment_approved] => 1 [comment_agent] => Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_11_5) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/66.0.3359.139 Safari/537.36 [comment_type] => [comment_parent] => 0 [user_id] => 0 [children:protected] => [populated_children:protected] => [post_fields:protected] => Array ( [0] => post_author [1] => post_date [2] => post_date_gmt [3] => post_content [4] => post_title [5] => post_excerpt [6] => post_status [7] => comment_status [8] => ping_status [9] => post_name [10] => to_ping [11] => pinged [12] => post_modified [13] => post_modified_gmt [14] => post_content_filtered [15] => post_parent [16] => guid [17] => menu_order [18] => post_type [19] => post_mime_type [20] => comment_count ) )
  1. Kathleen

    May 10, 2018 at 8:55 AM

    So rather than each individual being responsible for themselves and their own information, everyone will be responsible for (a piece) of everyone else. Not sure this makes me feel safer. But then again, new technologies are always scary at first.

    @Matt J. let me quess: you’re always looking over your shoulder for Big Brother?

  2. WP_Comment Object ( [comment_ID] => 131770 [comment_post_ID] => 146217 [comment_author] => Matt J. [comment_author_email] => [email protected] [comment_author_url] => [comment_author_IP] => 162.158.34.32 [comment_date] => 2018-05-09 17:41:46 [comment_date_gmt] => 2018-05-09 16:41:46 [comment_content] => Is the answer to big internet businesses abusing our data really to give them more personal information on our lives? And a single database is a single point of failure. Bodily autonomy and the right to not have to give this data over has to be respected, and a solution found for people, like me, who don't like having to reveal more and more about themselves to participate in this new kind of digital society. [comment_karma] => 0 [comment_approved] => 1 [comment_agent] => Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/66.0.3359.139 Safari/537.36 [comment_type] => [comment_parent] => 0 [user_id] => 0 [children:protected] => [populated_children:protected] => [post_fields:protected] => Array ( [0] => post_author [1] => post_date [2] => post_date_gmt [3] => post_content [4] => post_title [5] => post_excerpt [6] => post_status [7] => comment_status [8] => ping_status [9] => post_name [10] => to_ping [11] => pinged [12] => post_modified [13] => post_modified_gmt [14] => post_content_filtered [15] => post_parent [16] => guid [17] => menu_order [18] => post_type [19] => post_mime_type [20] => comment_count ) )
  3. Matt J.

    May 9, 2018 at 5:41 PM

    Is the answer to big internet businesses abusing our data really to give them more personal information on our lives? And a single database is a single point of failure. Bodily autonomy and the right to not have to give this data over has to be respected, and a solution found for people, like me, who don’t like having to reveal more and more about themselves to participate in this new kind of digital society.

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