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Blockchain Technology Can Solve User Data Privacy Issues

Lucy Wang believes that blockchain technology holds the key to the actualization of robust data security for the digital landscape. The Lambda co-founder made the call recently while talking about the recent Marriott Hotel data breach.

Data Breaches Aplenty

Breaches that end up compromising user data aren’t a new phenomenon on the internet. Almost every website with a significant volume of user information has fallen victim to hackers and other cybercrime syndicates.

Recently, Marriott International Hotel Group became the latest prominent name to admit being victims numerous data breaches. A statement released by the company said that as many as 500 million customers had been affected by multiple hacks beginning in 2014.

By the company’s admission, hackers successfully compromised user information such as credit card details, addresses, and even passport information. How could this happen? Well, all that data found its way unto centralized servers, providing a single point of failure that could be exploited by agents on the internet.

There are many within the decentralized technology landscape like Wang who believes that blockchain technology offers a solution to this problem. However, before going into such details, why should we even care?

Data is Valuable

Data is the currency of the digital economy, and as such, data is valuable. However, the present construct of the internet places user data in the hands of corporations that can pretty much do whatever they like with our precious information. They can sell them to the government (for surveillance) or to other companies (for targetted advertisements) both of which are horrible exploitation of user privacy.

In the process of shopping, browsing websites, watching YouTube videos, reading various social information on the e-commerce platform, the algorithm will secretly monitor our behavior, and also collect our various data. In a sense, “data and the algorithm “knows” us more than ourselves. They know that we prefer juice or cola, we like beautiful models or men with eight packs of abdominal muscles. Like this Marriott case also shows that under certain circumstances, “data and algorithms” could have the “control right” of our wealth.

Data giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu attract their attention by providing various information, services, and entertainment. And hotel giants like Huazhu and Marriott have our personal information and even bank card information. We have also seen that these “centralized” giants have used our data to earn hundreds of billions of dollars. We are not at all equal to the “centralized” giants.

Adopting Blockchain For Data Security

Under the centralized network, the giant almost has all of our private data, and the centralized internet has already relied heavily on the main-net. Whether it is academic or technical, these problems cannot be solved perfectly. In recent years, with the blockchain concept deeply rooted in people’s minds, the need to build a new decentralized network capable of subverting traditional client/server has gained more and more recognition.

However, most of the existing public chains are “ineffective” for data storage, TPS deficiency, cross-chain issues, governance issues, application development issues, etc. The nature of the blockchain is decentralized distributed ledger, and the data that can be stored is minimal (simple transaction records), other data cannot be efficiently stored. Therefore, in the absence of underlying data support, the actual use of the blockchain is significantly limited. More specifically, the decentralized storage of data is the most critical part of the future application of the blockchain.

To provide useful solutions to the problem, blockchain technology must of necessity, evolve with more robust and advanced features. Part of this improvement has to come at an algorithmic level like exists in projects like Lambda, with its Provable Data Possession (PDP) and Proofs of Retrievability (POR) protocols.

Recently, Ethereum World News reported the Project’s launch of the first ever Proof of Space-Time (PoST) protocol on GitHub. For Lucy Wang, the hope is that stakeholders become aware of the need to implement blockchain in data security frameworks to prevent further largescale data breaches.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Brazil's Central Bank Plans Blockchain Data Exchange for Regulators

Brazil could soon have a new blockchain platform to ensure the authenticity of information exchanged between the country’s financial authorities.

Brazil’s central bank, Banco Central do Brasil (BCB), announced Tuesday that it has built the platform in order to allow secure data sharing between itself and other domestic financial regulators, such as the country’s Superintendency of Private Insurance (SUSEP), the Brazilian Securities and Exchange Commission (CVM) and National Superintendency of Complementary Pensions (PREVIC).

In its release, BCB credits blockchain technology for its ability to provide a horizontal network of information, as well as immutable data storage.

The platform, dubbed “Pier,” will be used to exchange data associated with the authorization processes of financial institutions, including punitive processes, administrator performance and the management of corporate entities regulated by the central bank.

By integrating blockchain technology, Pier is said to eliminate the hierarchical nature of traditional business models and assist regulators in bypassing centralized entities when communicating. Furthermore, it would help prevent third parties tampering with the information, as the platform stores every data request using cryptographic signatures, the release says.

Despite having previously likened bitcoin to a pyramid scheme, Banco Central do Brasil has been enthusiastically experimenting with blockchain in the last year.

The central bank told CoinDesk in November 2017 that it was restarting work with the latest iteration of R3’s Corda distributed ledger platform, having halted development because the older technology had been considered too “immature.”

While it is not clear from the data provided which blockchain Pier is based on, the BCB said in the November interview that it was also developing proofs-of-concept on four platforms – ethereum, JPMorgan’s Quorum and Hyperledger Fabric, alongside Corda.

Pier started development with technical assistance from the Department of Informatics (deINF) at the Federal University of Maranhão in August 2017, as per the release. It is currently undergoing testing at deINF to smooth out any technical issues before an eventual launch planned for the end of 2018.

BCB image via Shutterstock

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Cognizant Teams with 14 Insurers on Blockchain Data-Sharing Platform

Cognizant has teamed up with 14 Indian insurance firms on the development of a blockchain solution for cross-company data sharing.

The IT multinational said in a statement on Monday that the platform was designed to allow firms to securely share data with lower risk of data breaches and fraud, while offering greater efficiency, better record-keeping and faster turnaround than with traditional methods.

Built on R3’s Corda distributed ledger platform and hosted on Microsoft Azure, the solution, which was developed last year, is a collaborative effort between Cognizant and a consortium of insurers including SBI Life, ICICI Prudential Life, Max Life Insurance, HDFC Life and Kotak Life.

Anand Pejawar, president of operations at SBI Life, said that the decentralized and immutable nature of blockchains, which provide the ability to combat document tampering and false billing, are opening up new models for insurers.

Pejawar continued:

“Blockchain has the potential to catalyze a significant shift in the insurance industry’s underlying technology and business models.”

By storing data on blockchain, the statement adds, insurers will see benefits including reduced operating costs and duplication of processes.

Arun Baid, Global Delivery Head for Insurance, Cognizant commented, “As a shared source of truth, blockchain opens numerous possibilities for insurers to collaborate more effectively and transparently, make better informed decisions, and create greater trust and accountability, while disintermediating data aggregators.”

Paperwork image via Shutterstock

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AlphaPoint to Secure Blockchain Assets with Intel's SGX Tech

Blockchain solutions provider AlphaPoint has partnered with technology giant Intel on a new security solution for digital assets.

As a result of the deal, AlphaPoint will release a new virtual machine offering, called the TrustedVM, to be backed by Intel’s Software Guard Extensions (SGXs). It’s the latest instance in which Intel’s security-focused solution has been utilized to create trusted computing environments for sensitive data, such as private keys that enable access to blockchain-based assets.

According to AlphaPoint, the hardware-backed solution can eliminate some of the privacy and security concerns that enterprise companies may have on the question of creating and exchanging digitized forms of physical assets.

Igor Telyatnikov, AlphaPoint’s president and chief operating officer, said in a statement:

“With this upgraded solution, we are enabling rapid implementation of blockchain technology into production within months instead of years. Our financial services customers want the benefits of distributed ledger technology without the security and privacy limitations of existing blockchain solutions.”

When reached for comment, Intel indicated that the partnership could form the basis for continued work in the area of digital assets.

“Alpha Point is focused on digitizing a variety of physical assets, which we believe will create a lot of opportunities for both Intel and Alpha Point,” a spokesperson for Intel told CoinDesk.

The exchange of digital assets is an area Intel has previously looked into, even unveiling a demo marketplace during an event earlier this year. In September, Chinese internet giant Tencent also tapped Intel hardware for blockchain security applied to the Internet of Things.

Intel image via StockStudio/Shutterstock

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Spanish Telco Telefonica Hints at Blockchain Role in Data Tracking

Spanish broadband and telecommunications provider Telefonica may be looking to apply blockchain as a way to cryptographically verify data, according to newly released documents.

On Oct. 12, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published an application for a “Method to Assure Correct Data Traversal Through a Particular Path of a Network.” The document outlines a way to transfer data from one point to another using a specific path through a Service Function Chain (SFC).

The patent also describes how a blockchain could be used to track the data, ensuring it follows the correct path and arrives at the proper endpoint, improving the SFC’s reliability.

As the document explains:

“According to an embodiment, a blockchain platform is provided to assure the sequence of processing for the data packet(s) received from the network. In this particular case, each transaction entering the network architecture (e.g. the SFC architecture) is used to create a block of the blockchain platform that is aggregated in the chain and replicated in a decentralized peer-to-peer architecture comprising a plurality of nodes, wherein each Service Function Path (SFP) of the network architecture comprises a node.”

A major supplier of telecommunications services, Telefonica has an interest in maintaining the integrity of data. The company operates across the globe, and is ranked 153 on the Fortune Global 500 list of companies.

In the application, the company explains that traditional, non-SFC systems are dependent on a network’s underlying infrastructure, arguing that this restricts how much information can be sent and how it is delivered.

Non-SFC architectures do provide a high level of reliability and ensure data is sent, however. On the other hand, SFC architectures are independent of the network’s design, but at the same time, they can’t reliably prove that data being sent is arriving at its destination.

To counteract this flaw, Telefonica outlined a plan to provide each data packet with a unique identifier. Every time a packet is transferred, the transaction is logged. If implemented using blockchain technology, those transactions are logged in each new block on the ledger.

Fiber optics image via Shutterstock

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