Today Dell Technologies joined with the San Diego Supercomputer Center, industry companies, and academic partners to launch a new blockchain research lab: BlockLAB. The BlockLAB will focus on business use cases for distributed ledgers and evaluation of technology stacks. One area where blockchains can provide real value is in enabling decentralized identities, an area we have been researching at RSA Labs as part of Project Sif. Project Sif explores how we can move from the familiar world of centralized identity to a more distributed and decentralized model.
Decentralized identity is a fundamentally different view on identity management as compared to the centralized model that predominantly exists today. Centralized identity has several shortcomings. Users today create new user credentials for nearly every service they want to consume. This leads to users having to maintain too many usernames and passwords (not to mention the security and usability problems surrounding passwords). Making matters worse, users are not in control of their data. Should Google or Apple cease to exist then so would everyone’s online identity that’s tied to them. Companies holding identity data also represent very rich targets for hackers. In short, the problem is that the web as we know it today wasn’t built with an identity layer.
A decentralized identity is a digital identity an individual creates, owns, and controls without requiring the involvement of any centralized 3rd party. Decentralized identities are accessible to everyone and designed with privacy in mind. There are no passwords and no centralized repositories of identity data. The benefits of this approach differ depending on the end-user.
For consumers, decentralized identities allow:
- Ownership and control of data
- Securely sharing data
- Accessing online services without passwords
- Digitally signing claims, transactions, documents
For enterprises, decentralized identities allow:
- Easy on-boarding of employees, partners, and customers
- Reduced liability from not holding sensitive customer data
- Increased compliance (KYC, HIPAA, GDPR)
Through Project Sif, RSA Labs is prototyping an Identity Wallet mobile app to allow you to manage your decentralized identities. This includes creating a new decentralized identity backed by a public/private keypair. The public key is stored in a public blockchain where it can be accessed and verified by anyone. The Identity Wallet app also helps you store and manage verifiable claims. These are cryptographically signed attestations which can be instantly verified by anyone (similar to government-issued IDs or legal documents). They can be issued by governments, banks, or even a friend or family member. Combining the concepts of decentralized identity with verifiable claims creates a powerful new model that allows any person, organization, or thing to interact with any other entity with trust and privacy.
Please stay tuned to the RSA Labs blog for the latest on Project Sif. Let us know if you have any questions or feedback through the comments below. We’d love to know what you think! Check out the following links for additional information on the BlockLAB announcement and Dell Technologies support for the lab.