Simplified Blockchain Security Promised By Accenture

Accenture has teamed up with Thales e-Security to offer a system that will allow organisations wanting to explore blockchain technology, an easy way to integrate enterprise class IT security into the system.

The blockchain tech, developed by Accenture, integrated with Thales Hardware Security Module and aims to tackle key distributed ledger risks for the financial services, government, healthcare and other enterprise sectors.

Last month a new report suggested that blockchain technology had the potential to reduce infrastructure costs by an average of 30 percent for eight of the world’s ten biggest banks. IBM has also predicted the technology will be used by most banks in the future.

Securing Blockchain

Blockchain, most commonly known as the technology underpinning the digital currency Bitcoin, is a highly secure database system which enables an organisation to create a digital ledger of information and share it with multiple parties.

Accenture says that its “patent pending” solution will help simplify the ability of blockchain technology to integrate with the industrial-grade security systems thanks to a “developer-friendly interface between emerging blockchain platforms and widely used hardware security technology”, (in this case nShield HSM developed by Thales).

Specifically Accenture has partnered with Thales, whose hardware is used by most major banks globally to secure records and assets from cybertheft – to develop the solution.

It says that hardware security modules (HSMs) are crypto-processors that securely generate, protect and store digital keys. According to Accenture, keys stored in the Thales HSM architecture cannot be extracted or used except under a highly controlled protocol.

“Blockchain is quickly maturing across industries and is set to profoundly change how businesses operate,” said Simon Whitehouse, senior MD and head of blockchain technologies at Accenture.

“But current applications cannot meet the high security standards of most mission-critical IT infrastructure,” Whitehouse warned. “That is because the digital keys used to secure and validate messages and transactions historically have proven vulnerable to network attacks.

“Our solution provides the same kind of physical security that banks have relied on for decades to keep money and transaction records safe from cyberthieves,” he added. “It will clear a wider path not only for banks but for governments, insurers, healthcare providers and others to do real-world deployments of blockchain technology.”

Accenture can make this claim as currently, blockchain-based systems typically rely on “cyberwallets” to store digital keys for blockchains.

Unfortunately, most of those keys typically reside on software servers and can thus become vulnerable to network breaches, such as the infamous hack of bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, which collapsed and entered bankruptcy protection in February 2014.

That Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange filed for bankruptcy after admitting it had lost 850,000 bitcoins, worth $500 million (£226m). It had been targeted repeatedly by hackers, but experts concluded later it was an inside job.

Accenture however says that its solution makes it extremely difficult if not impossible for digital keys to be misappropriated because they are stored in physical isolation from IT networks and “are architected with highly sophisticated, deterministic security mechanisms”.

“In addition, the platform need only be installed once, allowing companies to secure each of their blockchain applications using the same solution – regardless of which blockchain software or application they use – versus crafting a code interface for each solution,” it said.

Blockchain Security

Blockchain security is obviously a critical need for the technology, especially if its uptake is to find favour among the banking industry.

Late last year the US military revealed its interest in blockchain, as it could applications in a range of weapon platforms including military satellites and nuclear weapons.

Accenture has also previously created a blockchain editing tool, which it argues is vital for the financial services sector and would only be used in “exceptional circumstances”.

Quiz: Do you know your PayPal from your Bitcoin?

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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