We often take them for granted, but in many cases, standards save lives. We know, it sounds a little melodramatic but think about your travel history for a moment — when was the last time you boarded a plane and bothered to read the emergency flight safety instructions?
Unless you happen to be an aerospace engineer, you implicitly trusted that certain technical standards were met by the aircraft’s manufacturer and that the plane’s mechanical components and flight control systems would work flawlessly to get you safely to your destination. You also put a lot of faith in the training standards at your pilot’s flight school, the communication standards employed by air traffic controllers, and the security standards that were enforced at the airport prior to boarding.
Standards created for the physical world are incredibly useful trust-building tools so it’s no surprise that they’re found in practically every industry and market segment imaginable. They also serve as anchors in virtual space where cryptographic standards have become the central nervous system of our global economy. We rely on them for digital banking, e-commerce, file sharing, online registration and a multitude of other applications. Digital standards have two primary purposes:
Security Assurance — provides users with confidence that a website or online service is safe to use. HTTPS (HTTP over TLS) is a great example — it allows web users to trust that the site they’re visiting is secure, and that no third parties are able to eavesdrop on the session.
Interoperability — grants users more choice and greater flexibility in selecting the best available products or services for their particular needs. Think about Bluetooth, the wireless streaming data standard. Consumers shopping for a Bluetooth speaker system have a vast range of options to choose from, and they trust that any make or model they purchase will work seamlessly with whichever mobile device they own.
The Prime Candidate for a Blockchain Privacy Standard
Zero-knowledge proof (ZKP) cryptography is gaining significant traction within the blockchain community as one of the most robust methods for protecting sensitive information in a decentralized environment. At their core, ZKPs allow one party to prove to another party that they know some secret, without divulging any underlying information about the secret itself. They are particularly useful for shielding sensitive transactional details (who sent what, and how much, to whom) when assets are transferred on a blockchain.
Zero-knowledge proofs were first put to use in 2016 by Zcash, a leading privacy-oriented cryptocurrency. They’ve since been embraced by global financial institutions and consultancies including ING and EY, and they were recently endorsed in the UN Handbook for Privacy Preserving Computation Techniques.
QEDIT has made ZKPs compatible with a broad range of enterprise blockchain stacks such as VMware, Quorum, Nexledger and Ethereum. Our solution helps companies securely collaborate with industry partners and competitors while maintaining privacy over trade secrets and other confidential business data.
The examples above reflect the ascending status of ZKP cryptography in the blockchain space, and its far-reaching ability to preserve privacy, even in a transparent, collaborative environment. As companies seek out robust ways to protect their data, with peer-reviewed security assurances and interoperability tools, they will look to a well-vetted, trusted standard.
That’s why we initiated ZKProof.org, an open-industry academic initiative that brings together the world’s top researchers, developers and practitioners to promote a standard for ZKP schemes. This growing community’s enthusiasm for rigorously discussing, reviewing and testing proposals is already paving the road for a best-practice ZKP standard.
Why Standardize Now?
As the world becomes more digitally connected, particularly through the imminent use of shared ledger technology, it’s increasingly critical for solution providers to adopt a widely-trusted standard that keeps sensitive data private, without inhibiting collaboration. Paradigm-shifting innovations like DLT merit a collaborative approach to vetting the most robust privacy technology, so together, we can accelerate enterprise use of blockchain platforms while upholding the highest privacy standards. The wave of momentum behind enterprise adoption of distributed infrastructure isn’t slowing down, so now is the time to power an undercurrent of advanced privacy technology.