transactions move online, the need for comprehensive online security is greater
than ever since the internet makes it easy to commit fraud once a scammer has
the information required. Online credit applications and online stores are
simple to defraud once a person’s personal details are known.
The internet is so hacker friendly that
even an inexperienced pirate can wreak havoc with minimal effort. A 2017 Identity Fraud Study, released by Javelin Strategy & Research, found that $16 billion
was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, compared with $15.3
billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier. In the past six years,
identity thieves have stolen over $107 billion.
A recent cyberattack shook the U.S. and made clear the
gravity of the situation. A major security breach was released to the
public, making known a cyberattack on Equifax, which accessed the information
of 143 million people. This sensitive information contained a trove of personal information:
from people’s social security numbers to driver’s licenses and even credit card
details. One of the staggering angles of this event was the fact that the hack
was only made public six weeks after the
event occurred. This is alarming not only because of the lack of transparency
shown but also because of the nature of the information not given, leaving
millions unaware of the very real danger of identity theft.
Unfortunately, the dangers don’t end
with our financial records. With internet of things (IoT) applications evolving
rapidly, more aspects of our lives are left vulnerable. Not only are our
details being uploaded to servers but other elements of our lives as
well. There are many dangers to having so much
of our personal information including purchases, school records, medical records,
social security numbers and job details recorded digitally. While identity
theft protection/insurance services have been heavily marketed, their value has
been called into question.
technology provides the opportunity to do better in protecting our data. There
are over 20 companies in the “blockchain
space right now hoping to tackle a wide range of business and personal identity
solutions. Much of the innovation in this space is already changing the way we
think about identity. The decentralization of information prevents the eager
fraudster from making any use of personal details as well as providing new
autonomy over all data to the user. In addition, by
fusing one’s historical records with blockchain technology, we can see the
emergence of credible solutions for those individuals lacking official
Civic is an
example of an authentication service on the rise. Through the platform, a
user’s personal information is encrypted and placed on a blockchain, thereby
ensuring that the data cannot be compromised. Systems like this could, for
example, be used in voting to limit the possibility of manipulation.
There are other
companies who have taken digital IDs one step further, using distributed
ledgers to ensure safety and security for private information online.
VALID is one such company that is creating a self-sovereign digital
identity solution giving people complete ownership and control over their
personal data, combining it with a secure and transparent marketplace to match
identity owners with data consumers. This will allow identity owners to handle
all personal information, stored in a wallet on the blockchain, and it may, one
day, replace other forms of identity verification.
Another company in the
space is called Ocular. The system is user-friendly and allows governments,
banks and regulators worldwide enhanced and ongoing verification of customers
using a “three factor” authentication system to integrate standard background
checks with advanced facial recognition technology.
meanwhile, focuses on the IoT space with a secured identity platform designed
to work on home devices. As the number of smart devices in the home grows,
users need a reliable way to connect seamlessly to everything without giving up
reliability or security. Using a blockchain-based platform, UniquID offers a
decentralized, Bitcoin-inspired access management solution to help consumers
and businesses secure their IoT devices.
Blockchain solutions may be the
future for verification of identity, but these companies are still in need of
global recognition before they will replace other forms of verification or
eliminate the middleman entirely. Until then, it is still our responsibility to
protect our private information and take every precaution in any procurement of
our details. Only time will tell if blockchain technology can deliver on all of
its promises, but the future looks bright for online identity solutions with so
much capital, investment and innovative talent vying for their place.