Digital Certificates and Decentralised ID

Using a secure connection to identify and deal with your bank is a common scenario. Your web browser would generally check the validity of a digital certificate that is downloaded when you access the bank’s URL. The bank would have previously approached a Trusted Third Party CA (Certificate Authority) such as Verisign, who may carry out some checking (do you have the right to the domain name, is your organisation legitimate, does it have a physical address etc) and then issue a certificate (the CA will use a private Encryption Key they own to sign your domain and company details).

Any process or person needing to verify this identity (known as a Relying Party) such as your browser will download the certificate and check this is valid by using the Certificate authorities Public Key to determine if they indeed issued a certificate to that bank at that domain name at that physical address.

Decentralised IDs (known as DIDs) are attempting to create a recognised open standard for identity, utilising blockchain storage where public identification is required. They have huge implications, with the aspiration of creating a ‘trust layer’ for the internet.

In the above bank example, instead of using a relatively centralised Certificate Authority, the company would effectively identify themselves, and this ID proof would be held and be searchable on a blockchain.

The Decentralised ID is also a powerful concept for individuals to control their own identity. Instead of providing copies of your credentials (driver’s licence, passport copies) every time you want to open an account, a relying party could reference a DID that offers proof that the credential is valid. Self Sovereign Identity or SSI is the idea of people of organisations having control over their own identity.

In many cases, DIDs will not need to be publicly searchable, and people will create peer to peer DIDs that they might hold on their cellphone. This is the concept of a Pairwise DID and we’ll explore this concept in an upcoming article.

Elliptic Curve Cryptography Signing

Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) is the powerful method that protects the value in the Bitcoin network.  It uses special arithmetic  to produce the familiar private/public key pairs  used in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and provides a very clever method of allowing someone to sign a message using their private key, without ever revealing their private key to the verifier.  This is the link to one episode of James De Angelo’s wonderful Bitcoin 101 blackboard series, where he explains how the process works.

Cardano – 3rd generation smart contract platform

Another great episode of epicenter, Charles Hoskins played an early role in the creation of Ethereum. He talks about Cardano, a blockchain platform looking into improved forms of governance and consensus.

Consensus forming is key to blockchain mechanics as well as the idea of governance in the wider sense. This episode explores ideas such as delegated voting.


Primea – A new Blockchain Operating System

I always enjoy the epicenter podcasts, the guys do get quite deep into the technicalities of various blockchain technologies, which is testament to how well the presenters Sebastian, Brian, Maheer and Sonny know their stuff!  There will never be an episode where I don’t learn something new, even if I am only catching the gist of some of the projects under discussion.

Episode 245 was about Primea, a proposal for a new Blockchain Operating system.  Interesting proposals here around synchronous versus asynchronous processing, and using concepts of actors and mailboxes for functions.

Proof of Capacity

Bitcoin uses a method called Proof of Work which involves solving hard mathematical problems to help secure the distributed ledger of data that forms the blockchain. It does use a lot of electricity from mining equipment that rewards miners

There is a blockchain out there which uses an intriguing method known as ‘Proof of Capacity’ (also known as ‘Proof of Space’), called Burst.  In a nutshell, the Burst network is secured through hard disk space instead of continually hashing calculations.  A potential miner will use spare hard disk to calculate hash values pre-mining and store them, known as plotting.  This only needs to be done once.  The mining process will simply read specified values, which uses far less power.

A nice technical explanation

I personally believe this type of mining will increase in popularity.  It fits in the same spirit as Bitcoin mining, is absolute, and likely to be appealing because of the potential electricity save.

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