The Blockchain War Effort for Social Network Data Privacy – CryptoSlate

By Reuben Jackson      May 15, 2018

2018 has been a lousy year for the social internet. After growing in popularity for more than a decade, the social web has endured a series of scandals that significantly tarnished its reputation and obvious desirability.

First, it was discovered that the “Russia Scandal,” which continues to mire president Donald Trump’s tenure, actually had its roots in social media campaigns proliferated by phony accounts and internet bots. Leveraging the power of social media, these campaigns reached millions of users and, at the very least, contributed to the decline of meaningful social dialogue at a time when it was imminently important.

According to the Times, Cambridge Analytica, a research and consulting firm that’s funded by conservative political activist Robert Mercer, purchased information from a Facebook app that, when used, collected copious amounts of personal data from the user and all of their Facebook contacts. This data was used to build targeted advertising campaigns that preyed upon people’s fears, biases, and proclivities.The scandals didn’t stop there. This week, The New York Times exposed privacy fissures on Facebook.

In total, these events amount to a privacy violation for millions of people, and they exposed the frequently fraught relationship between users, the platforms they love to use, and the advertising that supports them.

More at: The Blockchain War Effort for Social Network Data Privacy – CryptoSlate

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BitFury Group De-Anonymizes Over 15% of the Bitcoin Network With New Blockchain Analysis Tool – The Merkle

By JP Buntinx    January 18, 2018

The ability to analyze and link Bitcoin transactions is something many governments and regulators hope to do more of moving forward. A lot of officials still think Bitcoin is anonymous, even though that is far from the case. BitFury Group recently demonstrated their latest analysis tool by de-anonymizing several million Bitcoin transactions. It’s an interesting turn of events, even though Bitcoin was never designed to be used in an anonymous capacity whatsoever.

ANOTHER NOTCH IN BITFURY GROUP’S BELT

Not too long ago, we touched upon the fact that BitFury Group has been making progress in the area of analyzing Bitcoin transactions. Given the company’s position in the world of transaction validation, it is in a prime position to dominate the other end of the spectrum as well. After all, Bitcoin is often associated with criminal activity, even though it lacks all of the necessary traits required in order to succeed in that area. By de-anonymizing suspicious transactions, companies hope to bring some more legitimacy to the world’s largest cryptocurrency by market cap.

Whether or not they will be successful in doing so remains to be determined. BitFury Group has made a lasting first impression, though, as its blockchain analysis tools successfully de-anonymized millions of transactions and their associated addresses. This was mainly due to the concept of Bitcoin address clustering, which exposes users by identifying addresses which may be linked to one and the same user. By gathering information from nearly 100 different sources, the company was more than able to perform a very successful test with its new tools.

More at: BitFury Group De-Anonymizes Over 15% of the Bitcoin Network With New Blockchain Analysis Tool – The Merkle

Blockchain in Your Pocket? The Phone Behind Sirin’s $157 Million ICO – CoinDesk

By Brady Dale    January 12, 2018

Does the world really need a blockchain phone?

Sirin Labs is betting it does. The startup, which recently raised $157 million in an initial coin offering (ICO), is building an Android smartphone from scratch with special features for cryptocurrency enthusiasts: an app store for distributed apps (dapps), cold storage for private keys and easy conversion between tokens.

The Switzerland-based company says the product will fill a need in a fast-growing market: a secure device that can simplify the use of cryptocurrency across multiple applications. But as an old tech adage goes, “hardware is hard,” and in blockchain it may be even harder, since devices must be engineered to protect not only information but unrecoverable money.

In a nod to the device’s target audience, Sirin has dubbed the phone “Finney,” after computer scientist and bitcoin pioneer Hal Finney.

Estimating this audience’s growth over the years, Sirin Labs CEO Moshe Hogeg told CoinDesk:

“You have more than 10 million people that are all in crypto in one way or another. I think the community will at least double in size by the end of this year.”

More at: Blockchain in Your Pocket? The Phone Behind Sirin’s $157 Million ICO – CoinDesk

Cambridge academic: cryptocurrency users’ anonymity may not last – Business Insider

By Camilla Hodgson    January 6, 2018

  • The details of supposedly anonymous cryptocurrency transactions may be revealed in the future, according to an expert in the field. 
  • Those taking steps to conceal their identities for dubious reasons may be identified by law enforcement as detection tools improve.
  • Blockchain transactions leave traces, which could be analysed if algorithms are cracked in the future.

LONDON — The identity of the individuals behind supposedly anonymous cryptocurrency transactions may be revealed as technology develops in the future, according to a cryptocurrency expert.

Although many users of cryptocurrencies value anonymity, particularly when using them in transactions on the dark web, advances in technology and law enforcement tools mean this secrecy is not guaranteed forever, Garrick Hileman, an economic historian at the University of Cambridge, told Business Insider.

“It’s like taking a blood sample from Lance Armstrong from 2005 — at that time, there was no way to test for the particular drug he may have been using, but through preservation you can, retroactively,” said Hileman.

More at: Cambridge academic: cryptocurrency users’ anonymity may not last – Business Insider

‘Mind-Boggling’ Math Could Make Blockchain Work for Wall Street – Bloomberg

By Matthew Leising    October 5, 2017

A major breakthrough in cryptography may have solved one of the biggest obstacles to using blockchain technology on Wall Street: keeping transaction data private.

Known as a “zero-knowledge proof,” the new code will be included in an Oct. 17 upgrade to the ethereum blockchain, adding a level of encryption that lets trades remain private. Previously, users were able to remain anonymous but transactions were verified by allowing everyone on the network to see them.

“Zero-knowledge proofs are one of the biggest inventions in the last two decades in cryptography,” said Emin Gun Sirer, an associate professor of computer science at Cornell University. It “will allow a slew of applications we can’t even imagine right now.”

An industry group called the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance — whose members include JPMorgan Chase & Co., Credit Suisse Group AG and BP Plc — is trying to leverage zero-knowledge proofs for the financial industry with its distributed ledger, known as Quorum.

This could be the moment Wall Street’s blockchain champions have been waiting for. Its ability to reshape vital financial market functions like clearing and settlement has always hinged on whether banks can keep customer and proprietary data secret. Zero-knowledge proofs, a theoretical possibility for decades, are now a reality, letting transactions be verified without the need to share any of the underlying data.

More at: ‘Mind-Boggling’ Math Could Make Blockchain Work for Wall Street – Bloomberg

Will Healthcare Blockchain Resolve Data Privacy Concerns? – HealthIT Security

A recent Black Book survey shows the majority of medical group managers and IT specialists believe healthcare blockchain will alleviate data privacy concerns.

By Elizabeth Snell    October 3, 2017

Healthcare blockchain is increasingly being viewed as a potential solution to numerous IT problems, such as connectivity issues, data privacy concerns, and patient record sharing barriers, according to a recent Black Book survey.

The Black Book Q3 report interviewed 88 healthcare payers and 276 provider technology executives, managers, and IT specialists.

Nearly all payers that were surveyed – 98 percent – with more than 500,000 members said they were actively considering or were in the process of deploying blockchain solutions. Fourteen percent said they were involved in some form of trial deployments.

More at: Will Healthcare Blockchain Resolve Data Privacy Concerns? – HealthIT Security

Electronic Health Records And HIPAA Security: A Design Problem Fixable With Blockchain Technology? – JDSupra

In some respects, HIPAA has had a design problem from its inception. HIPAA is well known today as the federal law that requires protection of individually identifiable health information (and, though lesser-known, individual access to health information), but privacy and security were practically after-thoughts when HIPAA was enacted back in 1996. HIPAA (the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act) was originally described as an act:

“To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to improve portability and continuity of health insurance coverage in the group and individual markets, to combat waste, fraud, and abuse in health insurance and health care delivery, to promote the use of medical savings accounts, to improve access to long-term care services and coverage, to simplify the administration of health insurance, and for other purposes.”

The privacy of individually identifiable health information was one of those “other purposes” only peripherally included in the 1996 act. Privacy protection was to be a follow-up, a “to-do” checklist item for the future. HIPAA directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to recommend privacy standards to specified congressional committees within a year of enactment, and, if Congress did not enact privacy legislation within 3 years of enactment, the Secretary was to proceed with the promulgation of privacy regulations. Security was a bit more urgent, at least in the context of electronic health transactions such as claims, enrollment, eligibility, payment, and coordination of benefits. HIPAA required the Secretary to adopt standards for the security of electronic health information systems within 18 months of enactment.

This historical context casts some light on why our 2017-era electronic health records (EHR) systems often lack interoperability and yet are vulnerable to security breaches. HIPAA may be partially to blame, since it was primarily designed to make health insurance more portable and to encourage health insurers and providers to conduct transactions electronically. Privacy and security were the “oh, yeah, that too” add-ons to be fully addressed once electronic health information transactions were underway and EHR systems needed to support them already up and running. Since 1996, EHRs have developed at a clunky provider-by-provider (or health system-by-health system) and patient encounter-by-patient encounter basis, not only making them less accurate and efficient, but vulnerable to privacy and security lapses. (Think of the vast quantity of patient information breached when a hospital’s EHR or a health plan’s claims data base is hacked.)

More at: Electronic Health Records And HIPAA Security: A Design Problem Fixable With Blockchain Technology? – LLP – JDSupra