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The Future of Personal Digital Records: Unlocking Security and Efficiency through Blockchain and Smart Contracts

Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize how personal digital records are managed, stored, and shared, because it offers unique features such as immutability, transparency, security, and decentralization. The application possibilities of blockchain technology in the context of personal digital records encompass various potential use cases, including but not limited to:

Create decentralized digital identity solutions that give you control over your personal information – Personal identity records, such as passports, birth certificates, and other identification documents, could be stored on a blockchain, allowing you to securely manage your identity and control access to your personal data.
Verify and store education credentials – You could store diplomas, certificates, and transcripts in a transparent manner. This could help prevent fraud by providing a reliable and verifiable source of information for employers, educational institutions, and other stakeholders.
Securely manage personal financial records – This could include transaction history, receipts, and other financial data. Blockchain’s unique attributes can contribute to a sense of trust and clarity in financial operations. By leveraging its decentralized nature, organizations can establish a more open and accountable environment for managing transactions. This way, stakeholders can be assured that their financial interactions are being handled with the utmost care and protection.
Manage digital assets – This could include digital art, music, and other forms of intellectual property. Blockchain can enable artists, creators, and content owners to securely manage their digital assets, track ownership, and receive royalties in a transparent and decentralized manner.
Control your personal information by managing your data privacy settings and consent on a blockchain-based environment – This can provide you with greater transparency and control over how your personal data is shared and used by various entities.

In this post, we show you how you can use blockchain technology in relation to personal digital records. The potential applications of blockchain in this field are vast, and can unlock the ability to improve the efficiency and security of many different processes across industries.

Authentication and encryption using biometric data

This post brings together the concept of biometrics, a versatile type of data, and its application in authentication. Biometric authentication has grown increasingly feasible and dependable due to the distinctiveness of physical attributes—each individual embodies a password. Nonetheless, since these ‘passwords’ are immutable, there has arisen a collective apprehension about the potential compromise or theft of biometric data, which could lead to irreversible privacy concerns. Enter blockchain, offering a remedy to address this challenge.

Blockchain has special encryption and peer-to-peer communication methods. A blockchain is formed in sequential order; changing any one of the blocks requires the permission of other blocks. The blocks communicate by a peer-to-peer method, where each node in the network maintains a copy of the entire blockchain. This decentralized approach means that there is no central authority or single point of control over the blockchain. Even if the central system is changed, it doesn’t affect the reliability of the entire system’s immutable record of data. Each block owns a code relevant to the data, which we call a hash. The hash is relevant to the data stored in the block; when the data is added or changed, the hash is changed too, then it becomes a new block and is sequenced to the other blocks again. When data is added to a block, it isn’t deleted or modified. Instead, a new block is created and added to the chain to reflect changes or updates to the data. This means that the original data remains in the block and can be referenced at any time, even if it has been updated or superseded by newer data in subsequent blocks.

The use of timestamps and the linked chain of blocks helps maintain the integrity and security of the data in a blockchain system, because it makes it difficult for anyone to tamper with or modify the data without leaving a detectable trace. When a change to a block is detected, the blockchain needs to perform data change validation to verify that the modification is allowed. This process typically involves the consensus of the other nodes in the network. In a public blockchain, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc., this consensus is achieved through proof of work, a process called mining, where nodes compete to solve a complex mathematical problem to add the next block to the chain. With a managed blockchain, the consensus process may be different, but the goal is the same: to verify that changes to the blockchain are valid and authorized.

Overall, the data change validation process is an important part of maintaining the integrity and security of a blockchain. It helps ensure that only authorized changes are made to the blockchain, and that the data contained within it is accurate and consistent.

Blockchain 2.0 refers to the second generation of blockchain technology, which builds upon the foundational concepts of the original blockchain (Blockchain 1.0) by adding new features and capabilities. One of the main features of Blockchain 2.0 is the ability to support multiple types of data, such as smart contracts. Smart contracts are digital contracts that automatically enforce and execute the agreed-upon conditions and actions as specified, eliminating the need for intermediaries.

Deploying Blockchain

Deploying a blockchain using a blockchain framework generally involves the following step-by-step process:

Clearly define the purpose and objectives of your blockchain application. Identify the problem it aims to solve and determine how it will benefit users.
Choose a blockchain framework that aligns with your project requirements. Some popular frameworks include Ethereum, Hyperledger Fabric, Corda, or EOS. Select the framework that best suits your needs in terms of consensus mechanisms, scalability, privacy, and development requirements.
If your chosen framework supports smart contracts, you can design the functionality and logic of your smart contracts using the specific programming language or scripting language provided by the framework. For example, Solidity for Ethereum, Go or Java for Hyperledger Fabric and more.
Build the frontend or backend application that interacts with the blockchain. This can include user interfaces, APIs, or other integration points. The application communicates with the blockchain network to submit transactions, retrieve data, and update the blockchain state.
Set up the blockchain network using the framework’s guidelines and tools. This includes configuring the network parameters, such as the consensus mechanism, network nodes, and network topology.
Write the code for your smart contracts, implementing the desired functionality. Thoroughly test the contracts to identify and fix any bugs or vulnerabilities. Use the development and testing tools provided by the framework to simulate network behavior and validate the contract’s behavior.
Deploy the configured blockchain network on the desired infrastructure. This can involve setting up nodes, configuring network connections, and validating that the network is operational and accessible to participants. The process may vary depending on the chosen framework and infrastructure provider.
Use the provided tools and APIs of the blockchain framework to deploy your smart contracts to the network. This step makes your contracts available for execution by network participants.
Develop the necessary interfaces or applications that interact with the deployed blockchain. This enables users or systems to interact with the blockchain, submit transactions, and retrieve information. Implement appropriate security measures to protect user data and secure communication with the blockchain network.
Regularly monitor the blockchain network and application performance. Validate that the network is running smoothly, address issue that arise, and apply necessary updates or upgrades as required. Implement proper security measures and follow best practices to maintain the integrity and security of the blockchain deployment.

The exact steps may vary depending on the chosen blockchain framework and the specific requirements of your project. It’s essential to refer to the official documentation, guides, and resources provided by the framework.

Solution Overview

We provide a step-by-step illustration of the example flow that enables users to develop a secure solution for sharing personal data using blockchain and smart contracts.

User enrolls for Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) by utilizing a user-friendly web3.0 registration site.
Each time the user provides their biometric data to authenticate, a private and public key pair is generated dynamically. It is important to note that in the proposed solution, the biometric data is not stored or retained within the system. The sole purpose of utilizing biometrics is to generate encryption keys instantly. As a result, the biometric data itself remains inaccessible. There is no requirement to store or remember key pairs on personal devices.
The user’s personal data is gathered and encrypted using the public key.
The encrypted personal data, along with a hash of the data, is stored on the blockchain. This helps ensure that the integrity of the data is maintained, as changes made to the data will be detectable through the hash value stored on the blockchain.
The trusted entities request access to the user’s personal data.
The user receives a notification and can choose to grant or deny access to their data.
If the user grants access, they provide their credentials for authentication.
The credential is encrypted with the user’s public key.
The smart contract retrieves the encrypted credential from the blockchain.
The smart contract compares the provided credential to the stored data to verify the user’s identity.
If the identity is verified, the smart contract allows the trusted entities to access the decrypted personal data.
The trusted entities can view and use the personal data as needed.

This flow aims that personal data remains exclusively accessible to authorized parties, with stringent measures in place to prevent unauthorized tampering or alteration during the sharing process.

Figure 1: Reference Architecture

Conclusion

Leveraging biometric authentication exclusively for on-the-fly generation of encryption keys, without the need for storage, represents an innovative approach to data security. This method offers a secure, efficient, and decentralized solution for storing and accessing personal records, thereby reducing administrative complexities. By utilizing biometric data to generate encryption keys, the vulnerability to unauthorized access is minimized, helping to ensure reliable authentication and signing of transactions. This technology has significant potential for transforming data management practices and enhancing security standards across various industries.

Another advantage of generating encryption keys on the fly using biometric data is that you don’t need to store your private or public key. Because the key isn’t stored, it’s less vulnerable to being compromised or stolen. This can make it a more secure option than using a pre-determined key that is stored and potentially accessible to multiple people or systems. Additionally, using biometric data to generate keys on the fly can make it more convenient for the user, because they don’t need to remember or store a separate key. This can provide an additional level of security and help to prevent unauthorized access.

Smart contracts can help streamline the process of sharing personal data and reduce the need for manual intervention. They can also provide a level of transparency and accountability, because the terms of the agreement are encoded in the contract and can be audited. The use of biometrics and blockchain technology has the potential to transform the way personal data is stored, accessed, and shared.

We encourage you to explore these emerging technologies further and consider how they could be applied in different organizations or personal digital record management. By staying informed about the latest developments in this field, you can help drive innovation and shape the future of personal record sharing.

About the Author

Muhammad is a Solutions Architect based in USA. As a Solutions Architect, his role is to assist customers in designing, developing, and implementing secure, scalable, and innovative solutions on AWS. His primary objective is to help customers achieve measurable business outcomes through the effective utilization of AWS services. With over 15 years of experience, Muhammad brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise across a diverse range of industries. This extensive experience enables him to understand the unique challenges faced by different businesses and help customers to create solutions on AWS.

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