Sovrin Technology: Zero Knowledge Proofs for All

May 30, 2019

By Mike Lodder, Security Maven, Sovrin Foundation

It is no secret that the announcement of Hyperledger Aries sent ripples through the Sovrin community. After many months of contributions from the Sovrin Foundation and the open source community, the infrastructure and the tools to enable the process of communicating, negotiating, and most importantly, sending zero knowledge proofs (ZKPs) now exist. The Sovrin Network uses ZKPs in our verifiable credential exchanges to ensure the information passed between identity holders and identity validators is cryptographically true, but the information contained in the proof remains private. Read more about ZKPs here.

Previous to Aries, there was no defined or common messaging protocol or process for executing and using ZKPs. The lack of these protocols meant interoperability was limited, and ZKPs could not be used interchangeably. In these contexts, ZKPs are only valid in the groups that are using them instead of across boundaries. This forced involved parties to share everything. Aries adds the ability to now share minimal trustable data between them and have methods for negotiating what data to share, how to share it, and which entities issued what. This means that Sovrin will be able to reach a much broader audience than before and in many more applications.

Sovrin has been working on agents and messaging for quite some time and decided others could benefit from the work. In fact, Hyperledger Ursa was derived from similar needs. Ursa is the backbone for implementing the cryptographic portion for ZKP while Aries handles the metadata and messaging.

But Sovrin is not the only network that could or should use ZKPs. Now with Aries, no one should have an excuse to not be using highly secure ZKPs. Using this open source repository hosted by Hyperledger, the entire community has access to this groundbreaking technology. Other blockchains using entirely different ledgers can take advantage of prebuilt messaging around ZKPs and be compatible with others.

Aries and ZKPs go hand in hand. With Aries, each party can describe the proofs they accept and which issuers they trust, and it can be communicated between any compatible party. ZKPs provide the cryptographic data assurance that has been missing from digital commerce. Currently, the only automatic business is with payments which underpins the economy, and other data is exploited for advertising. Sovrin and Aries with ZKPs allow data sharing to be autonomous and reduce the data hoarding problem by only needing to store what is necessary. This reduces costs and liabilities from protecting toxic digital assets.

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If you’re interested in learning more about Aries, Indy, or Ursa, consider visiting https://wiki.hyperledger.org/display/HYP/Hyperledger+Aries+Proposal or #Aries on Hyperledger chat at https://chat.hyperledger.org/channel/aries. Hyperledger welcomes interest from all groups and organizations, including enterprises and standards organizations.

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