Blockchain and Identity Protection

The problem with centralized security

It seems every few months there’s news of a major hack affecting some major industry that services millions of customers. Hacks of this nature expose a victims personal information making them susceptible to identify theft and the accompanying pain of having cancel all your cards, change your passwords, etc, etc. It’s the equivalent of spending an evening in the Dreadfort. Ask Theon how that went.

As this digital age continues to unfold one thing is certain, our reliance on using the internet is unchallenged. We communicate through it (Yahoo Haxxors), bank through it (JP Morgan anyone?), date through it (Ashley Madison) and use it to buy ourselves out of misery. This is why protecting our digital identity is of such singular importance as the world continues to digitize around us.

The problem with managing your online identity is that you have to micro-manage every individual online relationship you have. That means using unique passwords for each site, distinct emails (if you suffer from cryptoparanoia), billing addresses and so on. As you well know this is a hastle, but more urgently it puts the onus on the business you are dealing with to secure your data. And it’s not cheap to secure that data costing 3.3bln GPB in the UK alone. As we’ve seen above, you would be excused if you placed your trust elsewhere.

How the blockchain will help secure your identity

The centralized model we use today takes the control of your identity and places it in third party hands. You have no choice but to trust said party. In todays world we need a new and modern model for digital identity, one that places the control back in the individuals hands.  The so called ‘Self Soverign ID’. The “answer”, blockchain enthusiast believe, is a combination of cryptographic hashing and blockchain technology.

To be sure the the blockchain is not a panacea to the digital identiy problem. But it will help form part of the solution. Blockchain technology has already provided a solution to the problem or protecting and proving a transaction. Why can’t we apply this in some form to identity protection? The concept behind the ditigal ID is that a user can  create a basket, of sorts, with multiple forms of identifying information (Drivers ID, Passport, etc) inside it.

Once your identifying info has been verified a cryptographic hash is taken and stored on the blockchain. With the users information privately secure behind the cryptographic hash, one only needs to share a public key generated on the ledger to verify their identity.

Imagine showing up to your local clinic due to an emergency and you’ve forgotten your medical card. The clinic would have to call your insurer and verify your policy number and ID before attending you. Now imagine having a digital ID. You show up to the clinic and simply share your public key via an app. As you have already taken the steps to verify your Medical ID and placed it in your ‘basket’ your public key confirms your medical ID.

This would replace the many documents people carry daily – licenses, passports,  medical insurance cards – with a single key that can be matched against the blockchain ledger. No need to call the insurer Gladys, I got my digital ID. There are many startups that are appying the blockchain to strengthen our indentity, we will focus on one of our favorite projects: CIVIC.

CIVIC Identity Verification

Civic is a is a digital identity platform startup  whose goal is to provide an on demand, secure, and low cost option to identiy verification. Civic was founded and headed by the serial entrepreneur Vinny Lingham, who also founded the digital gift card platform, Gyft. Civic was established through an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) which raised $33mln. A total of 1bln CVC tokens were issued durin the ICO of which 33% were sold in the tokensale, 33% was retained by Civic and 33% allocated for distribution to incentivize participation in the ecosystem.

So how does Civic work? Civic’s Secure Identity Platform is an appplication you download on your laptop or mobile device that allows the user to authorize the use of their identities in real time. Once you have signed up and verified your identifying documents Civic takes a cryptographic hash of your info, inserts it into the blockchain and then removes your data from their servers.

When you want to authenticate to use a service, you share only the information the service request (Date of birth or gender, for example). The service then sends the information through Civic’s algorithm to check it against the hash on the blockchain. Once the hash is authenticated by the service using the Civic app there is no longer a need for the service to store your information. And just like that control of your identity just went from an untrusted third party, to your very own hands.

The beauty of Civic is while it can confirm your identity, because of cryptographic hashing, Civic doesn’t actually store your identifying information (That’s so Swayze). Therefore even if Civic were to be hacked your privite identifying data is kept out of the hackers hands.

Instead of providing wide consent to countless apps and services, and have your identity data spread across multiple providers, individuals only need a secure encrypted digital hub, Civic, where they can store their identity data and easily control access to it.

Civic has expanded from it’s early days of of only providing individual identity verification to launching the Civic Marketplace whereby trusted ‘validators can verify the identity of an individual or business, known as a “User?,” and ‘stamp’ or record this approval on the blockchain in the form of an attestation’. By providing a marketplace to service providers (parties seeking vefitication) and integrating their native token, CVC, civic is paving the way for how a utility token can add value to an open marketplace.

As of this post CVC is currently trading at $0.32 and has had a fairly wild ride in terms of price hitting all time highs of $0.74. They have an active Telegram announcements channel which I recommend if you are interested in learning more. In fact this morning Civic announced they are partnering with technology platform Votem to launch the first Know-Your-Customer (KYC) system powered by its CVC token. Exciting times if you are a CVC #HODLer

Summary

It’s very exciting to see how startups are trying to utilize the blockchain to address so many different aspects of our lives, including the ever important identity protection. While the blockchain alone cannot answer this complex question it can play it’s part and we already seeing this today.

While we only focused on Civic in this article there are a host of other companies approaching this problem from different angles. UPORT, SecureKey and IBM Blockchain, and even the country of Estonia is getting in the digital identity mix with e-Estonia. Digital identity is just one more exciting space where blockchain technology will add value to our daily lives.

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