Why is Hyperledger Indy the best solution to start a Self-Sovereign Identity solution on?

The biggest community of people building a Self-Sovereign Identity infrastructure is Hyperledger Indy.

“Hyperledger is an open source collaborative effort created to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies. It is a global collaboration, hosted by The Linux Foundation”. (1)

One of its projects – Hyperledger Indy – is a distributed ledger built for the purpose of decentralized identity.

“Hyperledger Indy provides tools, libraries, and reusable components for providing digital identities rooted on blockchains or other distributed ledgers so that they are interoperable across administrative domains, applications, and any other silo.” (2)

Although Hyperledger Indy is still quite young with a lot to be discussed and done, we believe it is by far the best infrastructure to study and to start building in a Self-Sovereign Identity Solution on. Indy has one of the most mature codebase and an engaged community around it, researching, asking questions and working towards the maturity of the ecosystem. Not only are the best people in the identity field working on developing it but also because it’s part of a transparent consortium, a transparent foundation.

The main tool to start using Indy is Indy-SDK. An SDK (Software Development Kit) is a “kit” that brings all-you-need tools in one library.

We do believe Hyperledger Indy still has to overcome two hurdles:

1) Today the solution still relies solely on the Indy-SDK.

That can be tricky as it carries a lot of heavy-weight assumptions like the need to use ZeroMQ, which browsers are not compatible with because it requires RAW TCP access to communicate with the node. That usually requires more recent mobile devices to work. Also, being a kind of all-in-one library it carries functionalities not always needed to everyone that uses it. 

2) The use of Rust to write the Indy-SDK

According to Daniel Hardman, Technical Ambassador at Hyperledger, the reason to use Rust as the programming language for Indy was because “We needed a language that could cross-compile for many different platforms, and that produced a C-callable API so lots of other languages could benefit from the artifacts it builds; if we didn’t have that, we’d have to write the same low-level crypto and wallet operations multiple times. Rust, Go, and C++ were the only serious candidates, and Rust had the nicest compiler options for cross-platform. Go’s C-callable support is harder to adapt when you are using Go routines. Rust is growing and is very popular with its developers.” (3)

We do agree that Rust is a very optimized programming language. It was a great choice to develop Indy. It compiles into C and can be read by most of the libraries. Rust can be compiled into C callable libraries and can be called by Node.js. But, in our opinion, it doesn’t matter much if it can be called but cannot be read by the great majority of other programmers.

Other languages that can generate C callable libraries – like C# (CoreRT) – are way easier to read and have a bigger community. For us to ramp-up someone new to this space, someone fresh out of University who needs to be onboarded to Sovrin, for example, we have to teach him blockchain, mathematics, cryptography, P2P networking and now also on Rust. The amount of knowledge that needs to be transmitted makes it more difficult to democratize this technology. To make it available for more developers. 

In opposition, Ethereum has many libraries compiled in many languages. There’s Go, Python, C#, Node.js, Javascript. The idea behind this was to make it easier for someone to be able to read and start contributing to it. It’s more democratic, it grows faster.

Nonetheless, we believe Rust is a promising language.


If you’d like to read more, we wrote this in-depth blog on Identity Management with Blockchain.

“Changes in The Sovrin Foundation” – Tykn’s Statement

Tykn is one of the Founding Stewards – a validator node – in the Sovrin Network. A Self-Sovereign Identity network based on a public permissioned blockchain started by The Sovrin Foundation.

As you may have possibly heard/read by now, due to the recent economic climate, The Sovrin Foundation’s funding model became no longer viable and the Foundation will, until further developments, be relying upon a full volunteer staff.

Nonetheless, The Sovrin Network is operational. From the Sovrin Foundation Press Release:

  • – “Stewards, like Tykn, are operating validator nodes and transactions are being validated and added to the ledger.
  • Transaction Endorsers are writing credential definitions, public DIDs, and other ledger data on behalf of Transaction Authors.
  • Credentials are being exchanged and validated.
  • The Board of Trustees is functioning and carrying out their duties.
  • Various self-organizing governing bodies such as the Technical Governance Board, Governance Framework Working Group, and Steward Qualification Committee (SQC) are all functioning and carrying out their duties.

The Sovrin Network was designed to operate in a decentralized manner, independent of the Foundation staff and it’s functioning as expected.

This is one of the merits of true decentralised networks: if one of its parts stumbles, even if it’s the one that started it, the network continues on.

We are, and will continue to be, using the Sovrin Network on our mission to create a future of opportunity through digital identity. Because people matter.

5 Remote Working Tips from a Remote-First Company

For most of our 3-year existence, Tykn has been a remote-first company. Our Sr. Sovrin Engineer, Product Manager and Marketing Director are fully remote. Working from India, the UK and Portugal respectively.

We support the scientific community’s opinion that social distancing & behaviour change as well as the constraining of mobility patterns are the best deterrents for the spread of COVID-19. We believe it to be our civic duty to help stop the virus’ proliferation. If not contained, its escalation is certain to overload medical facilities with tragic consequences.

From our remote working experience we’ve learnt a few best practices that might be useful to other teams:

Stand-Ups

Every morning, our team dials in on Zoom for a quick call (usually around 15-20 minutes long).

In this Daily Stand-Up each person answers the following questions:

“What have you done yesterday?”
“What will you do today?”
“Are you feeling any blockers?”

We believe adding a daily stand-up to our routine has had a tremendous positive effect on the teams’ productivity. It enhances everyone’s focus and organisation on the tasks at hand, progress is better tracked and small blockers are, sometimes, easily solved right there. But most importantly this daily call allows for social contact and it creates a feeling of unity within the team.

We also use a Slack Bot – Geekbot– to help us further account for our daily goals. Every morning the bot prompts each member to answer those questions and they are all compiled in a Slack channel. Even if a team member is not able to join the stand up, everyone knows what the others are up to.

The Daily Stand-Up, also known as Scrum Meeting, is a process originated in Scrum, an “agile process framework for managing complex knowledge work” (you can read more about it here)

Weekly Goals

Every Monday, the team dials in to state the goals they want to achieve that week. In every Weekly Goals meeting, one team member takes the lead as Master of Ceremony and registers everyone’s goals in Notion.

Documentation

Notion has been one of the great discoveries we have made for collaborative work and documentation. We previously used Google Docs but, unfortunately, while Google is great at search they tend not to be within their own Drive. Using it, we felt clumsy, unorganised and lost at times.

Notion lets us work on the same written documents collaboratively while having an intuitive and smart folder architecture. It also comes packed with great templates ready to use, such as an Engineering Wiki, Sales CRM or Roadmap! This blog draft is going right in there for the team to comment on before publishing 🙂

Meeting documentation is important not only for future references but also for enhanced clarity within the team, each person documents their meetings on Notion. Be it internal meetings or ones with partners, clients or prospects. That way, a member who does not attend can always refer back to the meeting memo to be up to date.

Open Communication & Cultural Awareness

Clear and efficient communication is key to great remote work. It’s important that the entire team clearly understands what someone else is conveying without having to second guess.

In our case, we have 6 different nationalities in the team so we are especially conscious about it. Could cultural backgrounds affect what the other is perceiving?

At Tykn, everyone has read Erin Meyer’s “The Culture Map”, which masterfully describes cultural differences across spectrums of feedback (direct vs indirect), context (high vs low), hierarchy and more. For instance, in Arabic cultures, direct negative feedback can be perceived as rude, while in Dutch culture it is embraced and welcomed. It’s important to be cognizant of these nuances and Erin highlights this with many more examples and anecdotes. Great book for multicultural teams!

Also, in our day to day, everyone needs to be able to openly say they did not understand something or ask someone else to clarify. Do not leave room for interpretation (as adopting low context communication leads to less miscommunication across multi-cultural teams). This applies not only to video conferencing (where we favor Zoom) but also to written communication (where we favor Slack, Email & Notion).

We like everyone to know everything. We are transparent about the challenges and welcome any kind of feedback on ourselves and the company. We want everyone to feel included in the decisions and why they were made. You may be far but we want you to feel close.

Weekly Cool-Down

By the end of the week, the team dials in again for a cool-down call.

Everyone talks about the progress made in the Weekly Goals and also how they felt during that week. One of the purposes of this meeting is to celebrate our achievements. In a high-paced work environment, it’s easy to be constantly consumed by our stresses and to minimize the achievements. It’s an hour for compliments and constructive feedback!

A great tool to get feedback on how our team is feeling is Officevibe. It sends everyone regular emails with several prompts asking how that person is feeling towards their work, colleagues and company. It sends back the results, anonymised, to the person in charge of the team.

Schedules and Boundaries

While working remotely, routines and disciplined schedules are important.

Starting at the same time, having lunch and small breaks at consistent times, and, most importantly, finishing at the same time. Since your work space is your home space, it’s easy to fall in the trap of working non-stop.

Or letting yourself procrastinate and then having to work late hours to finish your tasks. A disciplined schedule let’s you go all in on work during “work time” and relax during leisure time, without the guilt of thinking “I have stuff to do, I should be working”. There will always be more things to do. Rest is important. Be mindful about it.

This also means respecting each other’s boundaries. We only use Whatsapp for emergencies or urgencies. Meeting calls end at the time they were programmed to end and we try to keep meetings as short (and rare) as possible, without going on tangents.

Async

Working in an asynchronous manner has several benefits. First of all, it becomes easier to filter out what is really urgent from what is not.

“Does this matter really require a Slack or can it wait for tomorrow’s stand-up? Do we really need this meeting after I’ve documented my thoughts and given everyone the opportunity to comment on it?” 

Since your colleagues are not a “tap on the shoulder” away, people become better at planning. Work flows become better aligned and communication is more thoughtful. This leads to less stress and less fires to put out. Also, it allows people to work in the time period they feel more productive on. If you’re a night owl, great! You do you.

Especially during this period, take into consideration that parents with younger kids will have to spend a considerable amount of time helping them with their remote classes during the day. Asynchronous work may be a necessity. Be flexible with them!


We hope these 5 tips can help you have a productive remote work experience. They’re just guidelines, each team will probably have a different flow. Just find what works best for you 🙂

And remember, keep safe!

Interview with Joni Brennan (President of the Digital ID & Authentication Council of Canada – DIACC)

Why should a member of the government care about digital identity? The Digital ID & Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC) has identified at least $15 billion (CAD) of potential benefits for the Canadian economy in result of improvements in the digital identity infrastructure. 

A “conservative estimate” considering $300 billion CAD worth of transactions are done on Canada’s payment network. That’s according to Joni Brennan, President of the DIACC, and whose career has been focused on Identity and Access Management innovation and digital identity standards development.

The problem is that “digital identity was not built for the digital economy” (1). It currently costs organisations $236 per user to solve password reset related issues. Users spend up to 600 hours recovering from identity theft and a company whose data is breached incurs in losses of 5.68 million dollars.

Joni believes solving the problems of digital identity requires a “paradigm shift that no single organisation can achieve alone” (2). Governments and industries have to work together.

According to Joni, the solution has to:

– be economically focused;

– designed with the user’s needs at the centre 

– deliver efficiencies in governments and businesses; 

– reduce fraud;

– increase trust for the consumers and citizens that use it.

To her, that’s what a successful digital identity solution will look like.

In Canada, the idea of one single digital identity is not acceptable. Legal identity stems from 14 different places in the country. Identity is rooted to each of the different provinces where a citizen is born. For immigrants and refugees, legal identity is rooted in the Federal Government. However, the Federal Government is not the central authority for identity in Canada. All the different provinces feed identity into it. This involves and requires a lot of different digital relationships between individuals, individuals and organisations, organisations and organisations and all the devices they interact with.

What the DIACC is working on is a framework of industry standards and practices to enable “interoperable networks that will have verifiable data requesters ask for particular attributes to be verified and attribute verifiers to provide that verification” (3)

Canadian companies claim they waste more than $10 billion every year on unnecessary bureaucracy (4). Each Canadian business owner has to use three different tax numbers and navigate three different levels of governmental bureaucracy: local, provincial and federal.

This interoperable framework – The Pan-Canadian Trust Framework – could enable citizens to start businesses and not deal with so much bureaucracy and have trustworthy transactions online. 

As an example, one trusted organisation in the value chain (such as the Provincial Government) could issue a digital verifiable credential to the business owner, and the other organisation (such as the federal government or a financial institution) can verify that credential and trust the attestation made by the first organisation.

“Governments create data about us that we should be able to use in the economy and in the ecosystem. Just the same as banks and telcos also create and manage data about us. We need to have access to that data and we need to get it into an ecosystem that we can use securely, simply and with privacy by design (…) This is not only login. This is a new data strategy for Canada.” (5)

We had the chance to ask Joni a few questions:

What are your responsibilities & goals as President of the Digital ID & Authentication Council of Canada?

As President of the DIACC, I work alongside our inspiring members and Board of Directors – leaders from the public and private sectors in Canada, which include banks, as well as government and provincial representatives. I maintain a keen awareness of what is happening in the space within Canada as well as abroad, and participate in various international events (which there are no shortage of)! 

At the DIACC, our goal is to deliver a framework for Canada that supports our vision of an identity ecosystem that: is inclusive and interoperable across the country, supports Canada’s full and beneficial participation in the global Digital Economy, and provides Canadians with choice, control, and convenience. 

While DIACC benefits from a diverse and engaged group of contributors at the table, we are seeking to harness innovation and leadership across the country and around the world to position Canada as a world-class leader on digital identity. 

What needs to be true to “establish a digital identity ecosystem that accelerates the digital economy, grows Canada’s GDP and benefits all Canadians?”

It is crucial to prioritize privacy, security, user-centred design, and convenience of use. This is the approach that DIACC members take, and this shared approach guides us forward. 

While the implementation of solutions may vary, it’s crucial that a unified approach to digital identity interoperability is taken. We firmly believe that collaboration is key. If the public and private sectors do not work together and have diverse industry stakeholders involved, systems will be developed in silos, which may not benefit all parties and may actually exclude some parties from accessing benefits. 

What is the biggest myth or misconception about Digital Identity?

I think the biggest myth is that identity is only about the individual. Yes, the individual should be at the centre of every approach, yet the entire economy is impacted – as identity is key to delivering services for financial services, small and medium enterprises, and government. Identity must not only verify people, but also organizations. And of course, this verification must be done with an individual’s consent. People, businesses, and governments – all have the opportunity to benefit from identity solutions and services interoperability. 

In the field of Digital Identity, what is the question that people should be asking more but aren’t?

How can I get involved? 

People may think that solving for digital identity is solely the work of their governments and business leaders, but I encourage everyone to educate themselves, be curious, and contribute to the discussion. Successes and failures to accelerate secure, private, and convenient digital identity impacts the whole of our society. 

At DIACC, we’re passionate about working in the open, and that’s why our collaborative work to deliver the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework is open and available for anyone to comment and contribute. The Pan-Canadian Trust Framework drafts can be located here https://diacc.ca/pan-canadian-trust-framework/

Please get involved and share your perspectives to advance a framework for identity that will work for everyone. 

Specific roadblocks other people in this space should look out for?

Lack of education and awareness are challenges. Successfully convincing someone of the merits of digital ID is a challenge, and in order to get others on board, the education piece is critical. 

Other roadblocks include: a lack of action or a clear strategy, and digital identity solutions that benefit some, but not all.  

Finally, it’s important to have an open dialogue regarding classifications and types of data.  Canadians need to know what data exists about them and businesses and governments need rules and tools to guide access and verification of that data – with the consent, choice, and control of individuals. While we are working to solve digital identity challenges, it’s important to consider the ability to verify data as necessary for various kinds of transactions. 

If you had the chance to write something on all the boards in all the classrooms in the world, what would it be?

Stay curious and engaged! Learning is a lifelong process and the path to changing the world by advancing identity that works for – and respects – everyone is often a marathon and not a sprint. 

What are the next steps for the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework? (and how is the DIAAC accelerating “interoperability by securing adoption of the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework”?)

The components of the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework (PCTF) undergo various review cycles, soliciting input from those from the public and private sectors, as well as international experts, liaisons and the general public. After each review cycle ends and comments are collected, our community editing team incorporates all comments, and each draft’s content clarified and refined. 

The PCTF unlocks public and private sector identity capabilities, by harnessing the power and expertise that comes from both sectors. By taking an open and transparent approach, the DIACC is ensuring that all voices are accounted for. 

As for next steps for the framework, various initiatives are underway for the first half of 2020, including a glossary of key terminology, as well as an assessment and infrastructure component.  

Our members and collaborators are working hard to deliver the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework minimum viable product 1.0 this year! 

What are your hopes for the future of Digital Identity?

I would like to see greater collaboration between governments and the private sector to look at identity through the lenses of prosperity and economic growth. A true test of the value of the PCTF will be its broad adoption, and we believe that the best way to ensure PCTF adoption is to work with a diverse community of collaborators ensure that the PCTF is developed and maintained to represent stakeholder needs. On the economic front, we believe that, with public and private sector collaboration, the potential value of trusted digital identity to the Canadian economy is at least 1% of GDP, or CAD 15 billion. That growth could in fact be much higher when realized across the whole of the economy. 

What is the book (or books) you have recommended most to others?

Much of my identity practice related reading comes from peer organizations or from DIACC members in the form of research and white papers. There are simply too many to list here. 

Regarding non-identity specific reading, I’ve been reading and listening to audio books including:

  • – Deep Work by Cal Newport
  • – Digital Minimization by Cal Newport
  • – Harvard Business Review – On Managing People
  • – Harvard Business Review – On Managing Yourself
  • – The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
  • – And… the manual for my MOOG synthesizer which is quite a complex and enjoyable stress relieving machine

We, at Tykn, would like to thank Joni Brennan for her time and for sharing her ideas and knowledge with us. Thank you, Joni! Be sure to follow her on Twitter.

Tykn is a digital identity company. If you’re keen on reading more we suggest:

  • – Interview with Darrell O’Donnell (Founder at Continuum Loop, CTO at CULedger)
  • – Interview with Daniel Hardman (Chief Architect at Evernym and Technical Ambassador at Hyperledger)
  • – Interview with Elizabeth M. Renieris (Law and policy engineering consultant focused on the areas of digital identity, blockchain and data protection)
  • – Interview with Stephen Curran (Technical Architect and DevOps Specialist on the Verifiable Organizations Network)
  • – Interview with Kaliya Young (co-founder of the Internet Identity Workshop and author of the Domains of Identity)
  • – Interview with Kim Hamilton Duffy (Co-chair of W3C Credentials Community Group and Architect of the Digital Academic Credentialing Infrastructure at MIT)
  • – This Definitive Guide to Identity Management with Blockchain.
  • – Interview with Tim Bouma (Senior Policy Analyst for Identity Management at the Treasury Board Secretariat of the Government of Canada).
  • – Interview with David Lamers (Blockchain Specialist at Rabobank) about the bank’s research and Self-Sovereign Identity Initiatives.

How To Find Private Keys in Hyperledger Indy

After this post you’ll know how to find the private keys inside Hyperledger Indy. A problem our Tech Lead, Eduardo Elias, was facing and could not find the solution for online.

For the past 3 years we’ve been working with identity management with blockchain. Our expertise in digital identity technologies has led us to develop the digital identity backend of the 121 consortium and to winning awards by The Chivas Venture, the Blockchain Innovation Conference, The Spindle Innovation and more. We recently have been funded with a seven digit figure and are working on developing our MVP.

The value in private keys

In Hyperledger Indy, as in all most common blockchains, people have their private keys inside their wallets. The difference is that, in Indy, they do not have access to them, at all.

We believe the value in every blockchain is in holding the private keys.

It’s important to note that a private key can be used for multiple cryptography purposes. The same private key that generates my identity for Indy (for SSI, for Sovrin) can be used, for example, for a GPG signature for Github. It could be the same key that can be used for Ethereum or Bitcoin to generate an address.

If the technical infrastructure where you are trying to use your keys accepts the same type of encryption – like Elliptic Curve Cryptography – you could use your Hyperledger Indy private keys there. Structures like HTTPS, Ethereum, Sovrin or Corda, for example, all accept this encryption. Right now it’s not possible to use those Hyperledger Indy’s private keys to establish connections with other parties of a user’s choice. 

No access to private keys in Hyperledger Indy

We were trying to post transactions directly to a Sovrin node without the Indy-SDK. To do that we need to encrypt the data. To encrypt the data we need the private keys. But, through Indy-SDK’s Wallet implementation and its CLI tool, there is no method to retrieve the private keys from inside the wallet.

When we open the Indy-SDK code and find the wallet specific code there is a method to list all the credentials stored. But it only shows the public keys. Not the private ones. 

We’ve been to Hyperledger’s Rocketchat and we haven’t found an answer on how to access those private keys.

So we had to change the method.

How to find the private keys in Hyperledger Indy

Eduardo, our Tech Lead, had to change Indy-SDK’s code. He forked the project on Github, created a branch on his fork and then asked for a Pull Request with that change. 

The Pull Request was never merged, it’s just a way to show what part of the code Eduardo changed:

Github

Using this method, Eduardo was able to access private keys in Hyperledger Indy.

This small change on the code enabled the private keys to be shown on a “hacky” stdout call. The code above is a preparation to enable the command that lists credentials to show the private keys in a formatted way.

Ransomware Attack – How to Prevent

There has been an increase in ransomware attacks here in The Netherlands, mainly targeting SME and Startups. Our Tech Lead, Eduardo Elias Saleh, kindly wrote an internal memo detailing how we should prevent and protect ourselves from a ransomware attack.

“Security is not something we do once, it’s a culture.” – Eduardo

We thought that these tips could provide value to many more so we decided to share what Eduardo wrote. Here are some actions we need to take to avoid being victims of an attack:

Ransomware Attack: Definition

Ransomware is a type of a attack, a malware, where an hacker blocks a user’s access to their data, encrypting it and requesting a ransom for it to be unlocked and decrypted.

Never open unwanted attachments

Even when coming from a known person, avoid opening attachments that you don’t explicitly asked for. Known people contaminated by the virus can spread it and most of the times the emails are quite compelling. 

Backup everything

Not only because of the virus but because HDs (even SSDs) fail. Keep at least two up-to-date copies of the important documents you have in your possession in external drives.

Don’t download/execute apps you don’t know

Pirated, unofficial and non-commercial software can carry trojans. Only use/download/execute software that came from known reliable sources.

Q: “What should I do if I suffer a ransomware attack?”

This is a very complex answer. If you don’t have a backup of your data, either you pay or it’s gone.

The “politically correct” answer is: don’t pay, call the police and pray. But there’s nothing the police can do. It’s highly improbable they find the culprit and, even if they do, they won’t find the keys that encrypted your disk.

The only solution is to prevent and have a backup or pay. Otherwise, you just have to accept it’s all gone and move one.

Additional Security Measures

Strong password login: Only you should be able to have access to the data in your HD. In case someone gets physical access to it, it shouldn’t be easy to access the data.

Encrypt your storage: Doesn’t really matter if you have a login and password but your HD is not encrypted. If someone steals your machine and your HD is not encrypted they can remove the HD and grab the data from another computer.


You can chat with Eduardo in his linkedin.

If you’re into Digital Identity, here’s the most complete guide on Identity Management with Blockchain.

Innovation in Healthcare: 4 ways Self-Sovereign Identity will disrupt Healthcare

The number one innovation in healthcare you should be paying attention to – whether you work in tech, innovation management, policy making or digital transformation within your healthcare institution – is private and secure digital identity. This blog will tell you why.

Our expertise in this space has led us to recently being funded with a seven digit figure and to winning awards by The Chivas Venture, the Blockchain Innovation Conference, The Spindle Innovation and more.

We have covered extensively on this guide about blockchain and identity management how a modern digital identity management system can maintain the security and privacy of its users by decentralising the data storage and by minimising the quantity of personal data stored.

By implementing the innovative technology of Self-Sovereign Identity, users own their personal data and are able to access services from an organisation, proving who they are and ensuring trust without the need to disclose any personal details. This greatly reduces the amount of data an organisation stores and thus reduces the possibility of Personal Data Regulations infringement.

Let’s dive in on the 4 reasons why Self-Sovereign Identity is a major innovation in healthcare:

Innovation in Healthcare: Efficient Identification

The importance of identity is paramount in the healthcare industry. According to a World Bank report on The Role of Digital Identification for Healthcare

“Providers need to know a patient’s identity to access relevant medical and treatment histories and ensure that they are giving consistent and appropriate care. 

Patients also need documentation to prove enrollment in insurance programs or other safety nets that cover medical expenses. (…)

Health insurers need to be able to identify patients to ensure that those for whom claims are submitted are actually insured and to facilitate the adjudication of claims based on the patient’s history. 

A secure, inclusive, and responsible method of uniquely identifying and authenticating healthcare users over time and across facilities is central to each of these needs and the goal of achieving universal health care”. 

Although this World Bank report focuses on the use of unique identifiers – that are a matter of concern privacy wise due to the possibility of correlation – the reasons they present for the importance of identification in healthcare we deem as valid.

Efficient identification becomes jeopardized in countries where identity and information systems are weak. Either because their records are paper based or because their digital identity management system do not allow for interoperability with other systems. Impeding record or data transferring between organisations. Which ultimately leads to less efficient health services.  

“As a result, 3.5 billion people worldwide who do not have access to quality essential health services” 

Private and secure channels for data transfer, that provide trust between health facilities, patients, insurers and government is thus of absolute importante. One that a Self-Sovereign Digital Identity could provide.

Innovation in Healthcare: Interoperability and Trust

By using a common identity metasystem, institutions within the healthcare industry could easily and seamlessly verify digital Verifiable Credentials issued by other organisations (and even issue some themselves). A healthcare facility could trust the authenticity of a patient credential without even having to check the actual data there contained.

These privacy maintaining channels would be assured through cryptography and Zero-Knowledge Proofs. The verifying organisation would just have to check the blockchain to verify the authenticity of the signature of the attesting organisation or physician. If the signature matches the one in the patient’s credential, it’s authentic.

And you may ask, “But how do we know whether to trust the physician?”.

Phil Windley, Sovrin’s Chairman, answers this question: “Professionals can also create proofs from verifiable claims written about them to show that they have specific qualifications, certifications, or work at specific institutions. These claims are, in turn, verifiable in the same manner, creating a chain of trust.”

Non-interoperable identity systems are costly for the institutions and troublesome and stressful for the users. When patients arrive at the new facility, the need for duplicated registrations and paperwork increases bureaucracy for one side and frustrates patients in need of care.

“By allowing for secure and accurate identification and authentication of patients and enabling information exchange, they can increase the efficiency of patient management, improve the quality of treatment, reduce administrative burdens for patients, facilitate access to insurance, reduce fraud, and improve data collection.” (World Bank Report)

The digitization of healthcare identity systems is not enough though. Institutions must make sure their digital records are private and secure. Centralised healthcare records pose a major privacy risk for both patient and organisation. 

Self-Sovereign Identity is the innovation in healthcare that provides the decentralization, security, privacy and interoperability for a more efficient healthcare system.

Innovation in Healthcare: Birth Registrations

1.2 billion people around the world do not have an identity. Some of them because they never had it in the first place. Having no identity has grave consequences for these peoples’ lives as they are not able to access healthcare, education or banking services. 

An interoperable identity system would be the major innovation in healthcare that allows hospitals, midwives or birth facilities to easily communicate a birth to the government who can instantly issue a digital birth certificate.

Innovation in Healthcare: Identity and Access Management

Identity and Access Management Softwares (IAM) are used by companies to authenticate, authorize, manage and create a central repository of their users/employees.

Whenever a new employee is onboarded into a company, a whole new set of accounts has to be created. A lot of different accounts. From a simple email account to databases, servers or even Slack. 

Once this employee leaves, all these accounts have to be revoked as they were created: manually one by one. One instance of a not properly revoked credential can open the door for vulnerability. As a malicious former employee can access the company’s network and steal data. This is specially important given how sensitive the information in the healthcare industry is.

Through the use of Self-Sovereign Identity the user would be onboarded on all the different services using his own credential or one created by the company. One that the employee would store on his identity wallet. On the moment of revocation, only one credential would have to be revoked to cut access to all of the accounts.

Self-Sovereign Identity could also be an innovative technology for the Identity and Access Management space by improving the audit trail. For compliance reasons, these enterprise softwares register a log of user access for fraud prevention. Though the method through which that log is created – sometimes a text file – is of concern as privileged users could modify or delete logs for nefarious reasons. Blockchain, due to its immutable nature, could be a prime use case for access log security.


More Resources:

– Our Definitive Guide on Identity Management with Blockchain (Updated for 2020)
– Our Digital Identity Management System that brings privacy and security to personal data.

Interview with Darrell O’Donnell (Founder at Continuum Loop, CTO at CULedger)

What happens when an organization does not own my identity anymore? This is a question that Darrell O’Donnell –  founder at Continuum Loop Inc., currently CTO at CULedger, investor and advisor at several companies (including Tykn) – has been answering with his work in the Digital Identity space.

According to Darrell, holding a digital identity database inside an organization is a liability. It’s a huge expense in data management – unless you are Google or Facebook and have a financial incentive to host such a database – and the liability of having an “honey pot” of personal data that could be leaked, hacked or breached is tremendous. As seen, for example, with the Equifax case in which the personal information of 147 million people was exposed.

Self-Sovereign Identity – a model of identity management where users own and hold their own data – avoids the “honey pot” issue. There is no centralized database of identity to be breached. This is achieved through the use of blockchain technology. 

Through the infrastructure of a blockchain, the verifying parties can immediately verify data that is shared. They do this by using data anchored in a blockchain to check the validity of the attestation and attesting party (such as the government) from which they can determine whether to validate the proof.

For example, when an identity owner presents a proof of their date-of-birth, rather than actually checking the truth of the date of birth itself, the verifying party will validate the government’s signature who issued and attested to this credential to then decide whether he trusts the government’s assessment about the accuracy of the data.

Leveraging blockchain technology establishes trust between the parties and guarantees the authenticity of the data and attestations, without actually storing any personal data on the blockchain.

“The solutions that resonate well with blockchain are in areas where there is no one truly in charge. In digital identity there is no one truly in charge. There are different players. Companies, governments, individuals. But their job is not to own the whole problem. When someone owns the whole problem there is no need for a blockchain. All it is is a slow database. But in situations where there is no central point of control, and there shouldn’t be a central point of control, then blockchain is ideal.” (Source)

If you’re an organization looking into Self-Sovereign Identity solutions, Darrell believes two important questions should be asked to every vendor:

– What can you tell me about how your Self-Sovereign Identity system is governed?

– What happens to my Self-Sovereign Identity if your company disappears?

These questions let you know if the system is using Self-Sovereign Identity or if it’s just a “polished version” of the old thing.

Be aware of these red flags in the answers: If there is no governance or governance is automated “in the code”, Darrell thinks you’re in for a “world of hurt”. Governance is such a complex matter that it is not yet possible to have it automated. Heavy governance is just as bad. “Identity requires some light human governance” (source). Also, if a digital identity depends on a vendor and it’s useless if the company disappears then it is not self-sovereign. “It’s just relatively open”. The user must own his identity.

“In 10 years nobody will care that the advent of self-sovereign identity created a seismic shift in both technology and the balance of power. What they will care about is that their lives have been improved. They won’t talk about privacy, security, and other things that we talk about.

And somebody, in 10 years, is going to say “Really? You let a big company control your identity and monitor everything you did? Why would you do that?”.” (Source)

We had the chance to ask Darrell a few questions:

What is the biggest myth or misconception about Digital Identity/SSI?

That regular people care about it – they don’t. The Identerati see how it solves problems but the preaching doesn’t help. The key message that needs to be heard is that it helps us act like we do in our non-digital lives – naturally establishing relationships with reasonable privacy. Under the hood it certainly is a better solution – but no ordinary person ever said (or thought) “geez I need a better digital identity.”

Specific roadblocks other people in your space should look out for (and how to overcome them)?

Similar to the earlier question, we expose far too much complexity, which makes decentralized identity/SSI unapproachable for most. Please don’t misunderstand me – I know that the digital identity space is incredibly detailed and there are important distinctions. My point is that if your business isn’t helping make the key decisions for your customers you’re not adding value. One of the changes that I made at CULedger, for example, was to take a multi-week effort down to a few hours for a developer. Our API has 2 main calls. That’s it. That’s all that is needed to get started. If you can get a developer productive with a couple of hours of work they will invest more time to go deeper. If the learning curve is measured in weeks or months you will only attract a miniscule audience. 

If you had the chance to write something on all the boards in all the classrooms in the world, what would it be?

Learn how to learn. Your teacher is probably teaching you how to memorize…

In many many years, looking back to your life, what would make you feel you accomplished your mission?

I would like to think that there are people out there that have made more impact because of some small thing that I helped them with. Seeing a major shift to an internet that can be trusted more would be fantastic. Lately I have been looking at ways that I may be able to help out with a big impact with the climate emergency. I started my career in environmental engineering but was pulled into software – the landfill and wastewater treatment work wasn’t what I wanted. 

One (or more) book(s) that greatly influenced you and why?

As a founder of multiple companies, The Hard Thing About Hard Things (Ben Horowitz) had a huge impact. Knowing that CEOs around the world are dealing with the same thing was incredibly impactful. CEOs have huge responsibility and they are alone – knowing, strangely, that there are others going through what feels like hell often was oddly comforting.

I keep returning to Abundance (Peter Diamandis) as a recommendation for the folks that I advise as well. It explains that the world is changing faster and faster because of the convergence of many things. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us to correct some extreme problems (climate) but there is hope. 

Do you have a favourite victory/failure of yours?

I had a company that we had to wind up over a weekend. A key client (too many eggs in one basket) flipped a curveball at us and forced us to shut down. It was horrible. I had to lay off all of my team. Every one of them landed jobs within a couple of weeks with substantial raises. But every one of my direct reports told me over the next year that their time with me was by far the best thing that had ever happened in their career. It was hard to recover but awesome to see the impact. Years later I kept wondering if I should have left that business earlier but I know now that it happened at the right time. The lessons learned in that pressure cooker-style environment gave me a lot of tools that I didn’t realize were important for others.

In your field, or in life, what is the question that people should be asking more and they aren’t?

I’ll steal this one from Tim Ferriss – “what would this look like if it were easy?”

Bonus Question: Pineapple on pizza. Yes or no?

Good god no. 


We, at Tykn, would like to thank Darrell O’Donnell for his time and for sharing his ideas and knowledge with us (not only in this interview but also as our advisor!). Thank you, Darrell! Be sure to follow his Twitter.

Tykn is a digital identity company. If you’re keen on reading more we suggest:

  • – Interview with Daniel Hardman (Chief Architect at Evernym and Technical Ambassador at Hyperledger)
  • – Interview with Elizabeth M. Renieris (Law and policy engineering consultant focused on the areas of digital identity, blockchain and data protection)
  • – Interview with Stephen Curran (Technical Architect and DevOps Specialist on the Verifiable Organizations Network)
  • – Interview with Kaliya Young (co-founder of the Internet Identity Workshop and author of the Domains of Identity)
  • – Interview with Kim Hamilton Duffy (Co-chair of W3C Credentials Community Group and Architect of the Digital Academic Credentialing Infrastructure at MIT)
  • – This Definitive Guide to Identity Management with Blockchain.
  • – Interview with Tim Bouma (Senior Policy Analyst for Identity Management at the Treasury Board Secretariat of the Government of Canada).
  • – Interview with David Lamers (Blockchain Specialist at Rabobank) about the bank’s research and Self-Sovereign Identity Initiatives.

Tykn’s 2019: Year In Review

2019 was a great and intense year for us. Here’s a highlight of our favourite moments.

Seed Investment

We were extremely happy to announce that we received an investment of 1.2 million euros from Dutch IT entrepreneur Johan Mastenbroek. With him on board, Tykn gained not only a financial partner but also an experienced business mentor.

In Johan Mastenbroek‘s own words: “I strongly believe in the principles and ideas of Tykn. They work together with international organisations, with whom they can provide a solution to a global problem and create a future of opportunities instead of a future of problems.”

121

One of our main focuses throughout 2018 and 2019 was 121. A source of great pride for us.

In February it was finally announced: In October and December 2018, Dorcas led the 121 Direct Cash Aid on Blockchain Pilot in Ukraine with Tykn’s Digital Identity backend & 510 Data Team of The Netherlands Red Cross‘ frontend & system.

The Chivas Venture

Tykn placed Top 5 in the world, over a 1000 companies, in The Chivas Venture Global Competition. Winning us $50,000, exposure, and equally important: the recognition of the urgency to tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 16.9.

Tykn digital identity management

The jury was composed of Zoe Saldana (actress, entrepreneur and philanthropist), Alexandre Ricard (Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard), Cemal Ezel (founder of Change Please) and Sonal Shah (economist and founding Executive Director of the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University).

It was a thrill standing on The Next Web‘s stage and presenting our solution to this jury and thousands of people.

Turkey

We spent some emotional weeks in the SDG Impact Accelerator (SDGia). The first of its kind in Turkey to address the issues of the refugee crisis. Turkey houses approx. 3.6 million refugees and spends nearly 37 billion dollars on it.

tykn digital identity refugees

We have had the opportunity to engage directly with refugees and organisations such as the United Nations Development Programme – UNDP, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, International Labour Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), IMO – UN Migration, Turkey Red Crescent, Republic of Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, Agriculture and the Directorate General of Migration Management.

Putting ourselves in the shoes of people affected by displacement and ID-related problems is key in our journey to craft a solution inclusive for all.

One of the challenges presented by the Accelerator was on how to provide refugees with livelihood opportunities through digital ID solutions.

Tykn’s participation in this challenge became part of an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders all over the country. Where we have become actively involved in designing, testing and implementing digital identity solutions over the next few years that can serve the refugee population in Turkey.

tykn digital identity refugees

This accelerator was led by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme. Supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Eczacıbaşı Holding, Limak Holding and the World Food Programme – WFP.

It was great to have been part of it!

New Office and Brand Identity

We started the year moving offices to The Hague, the city of peace and justice. It made sense not only because of the symbolic value of The Hague but also because of the strong NGO and social impact startup ecosystem. We became proud members of ImpactCity, a community of companies focused on doing business and doing good.

Our office-warming party was also the perfect opportunity to launch our new brand identity. One that reflected the humanity in our vision and mission. That accurately portrayed why we are doing what we are doing and showed that we are more than a tech company.

2020

Our work is far from done though. We have been working hard behind the scenes to launch our own platform in 2020: Ana, making the refugee integration journey easy and safe. Creating a future of opportunities. Because people matter.

We hope you have a great 2020!

Team Tykn

Interview with Daniel Hardman (Chief Architect at Evernym and Technical Ambassador at Hyperledger)

Photo: Hyperledger Global Forum

Daniel Hardman is one of those inevitable names that come up whenever Self-Sovereign Identity is mentioned. He is the Chief Architect at Evernym, one of the world’s leading companies in Digital Identity

Evernym was the catalyst behind the creation of Sovrin, a Self-Sovereign Identity network based on a public permissioned blockchain. The Sovrin Network is run by a Federation of Stewards who are responsible for validating identity transactions to ensure consistency about what is written on the ledger and in what order. We are proudly one of those Stewards who are allowed to run a validator node. Along with IBM, Cisco, T-labs and 68 others (with the aim of having up to 300 Stewards within the network in the long run for optimal decentralised governance).

In an identity management scenario, a blockchain, like Sovrin, enables everyone in the network to have the same source of truth about which credentials are valid and who attested to the validity of the data inside the credential, without necessarily revealing the actual data. This brings privacy and security to Digital Identity as each person holds their identity credentials in their own devices and controls the digital relationships those credentials are used in and for. The user decides who gets to “see” them and how much of them they get to “see”.

But if one stores their digital identity credentials on a digital identity wallet on his devices (like a mobile phone), it begs the question: what if my phone is lost or stolen?

To answer this question we always draw from Daniel Hardman’s excellent paper.

According to him there are two steps to be taken

The first one is to revoke the device’s authorization to use credentials. Digital Identity credentials are only valid if used from a device that was authorized to do so. If a user’s phone is lost or stolen, that user could use another authorized device, like his laptop, to write on the blockchain that his mobile phone’s authorization is now revoked. 

This would take immediate effect and stop anyone from using the digital identity credentials on the phone. The thief would not be able to impersonate the user even if he has her passwords, biometrics or phone because the blockchain, immutable and secure, would contain a revocation registry for the phone.

Revocation of the device’s authorization impedes the thief to impersonate the user to create new relationships. The second step impedes the thief to explore the existing relationships between the device and other people or organisations. The second step thus is to revoke the existing relationship keys (pairwise connections where each of them has a unique key).

These two steps stop an identity thief to use digital identity credentials to access new services or explore relationships with existing ones. While conveniently letting the user still use his credentials on another device.

We had a chance to ask Daniel a few questions:

What are, in your opinion, the riskiest assumptions when writing an SDK (Software Development Kit)?

SDKs have a very broad set of uses. It’s easy to assume that everyone using the SDK will be doing mobile, or servers. It’s much harder to build an SDK that also works for embedded or for SaaS. So I think platform assumptions are one of the most risky areas.

Another risky area is the threading model. Some people will want something simple. Others will want something that is very scalable or performant. It is hard to do both–so assumptions about this area are risky.

For you, what are the most promising/exciting SSI projects/repos?

I think hyperledger/aries-rfcs is super important. Also the peer did spec at openssi/peer-did-method-spec. And hyperledger/aries-cloudagent-python, hyperledger/aries-framework-dotnet, hyperledger/aries-framework-go, hyperledger/aries-protocol-test-suite.

What do you believe are the bottlenecks for the cross-ledger SSI (Ethereum, Sovrin etc)? How soon can we see cross-ledger credentials exchanges?

I think the number one bottleneck right now is not related that strongly to ledgers, but rather to credential format. There are 3 credential formats that are in harmony with the VC spec, that are not mutually interoperable. Until we solve that problem, cross-ledger SSI will probably not happen.

I predict that this problem to be solved in the next 1-2 years, with Sovrin announcing support for other ledgers and other credential formats. That’s because it’s going to be easier for Sovrin to support the simple crypto of the other formats, than for the other formats to upgrade their crypto to support Sovrin-style credentials.

What are the upsides of using Zero MQ (ZMQ) over a common HTTP/Rest connection?

ZMQ trust is not based on certificates, but rather on possession of keys. We need these keys anyway, so the transactions from individual validators can be signed and verified by one another. So, ZMQ allows us to secure the conversation using keys we already had. If we were using HTTP/Rest, we would still have those keys and would still need to sign things, but then we would redundantly be encrypting. We would also have to make sure every validator node accepted the certificates from every other validator node, and certificate expiration would be a constant headache.

How hard would it be to replace the current TLS (Transport Layer Security) architecture with SSI?

Very hard. I don’t expect this to happen any time in the next 5 years. It may never happen. TLS is good for trust between computers, not between humans–but since we will always need trust between computers, it may be here to stay…

Why was Rust chosen to write Indy-SDK?

We needed a language that could cross-compile for many different platforms, and that produced a C-callable API so lots of other languages could benefit from the artifacts it builds; if we didn’t have that, we’d have to write the same low-level crypto and wallet operations multiple times. Rust, Go, and C++ were the only serious candidates, and Rust had the nicest compiler options for cross-platform. Go’s C-callable support is harder to adapt when you are using Go routines. Rust is growing and is very popular with its developers.

Specific roadblocks other people in this space should look out for?

The biggest roadblock right now is the learning curve. The mental model is different from that of familiar web programming in important ways, and understanding how and why is hard.

I am encouraged because we now have agent frameworks that are becoming available, that allow a developer to be productive without knowing so many of the low-level details. This should help a lot with this challenge.

What is the book (or books) you have recommended most to others?

Two that have been relevant to me in recent years are Refactoring, by Kent Beck and Martin Fowler, and Working Effectively with Legacy Code, by Michael Feathers.


We, at Tykn, would like to thank Daniel Hardman for his time and for sharing his ideas and knowledge with us. Thank you, Daniel! Be sure to follow his Twitter.

Tykn is a digital identity company. If you’re keen on reading more we suggest:

  • Interview with Elizabeth M. Renieris (Law and policy engineering consultant focused on the areas of digital identity, blockchain and data protection)
  • – Interview with Stephen Curran (Technical Architect and DevOps Specialist on the Verifiable Organizations Network)
  • – Interview with Kaliya Young (co-founder of the Internet Identity Workshop and author of the Domains of Identity)
  • – Interview with Kim Hamilton Duffy (Co-chair of W3C Credentials Community Group and Architect of the Digital Academic Credentialing Infrastructure at MIT)
  • – This Definitive Guide to Identity Management with Blockchain.
  • – Interview with Tim Bouma (Senior Policy Analyst for Identity Management at the Treasury Board Secretariat of the Government of Canada).
  • – Interview with David Lamers (Blockchain Specialist at Rabobank) about the bank’s research and Self-Sovereign Identity Initiatives.