storing-sensitive-customer-data-in-a-blockchain-based-solution

 

blockchain-data-records

 

Intro

Once data is on the blockchain, it’s there forever. Blockchains are permanent, immutable storage with no way to revert, delete, or undo the data that has been written to them. Due to the fundamental nature of a blockchain and every node replicating the ledger at a regular clip, the surface size hackers have to attack compared to a traditional database is much larger. So blockchain sounds like a bad idea? Not really….if you use the right data strategy. The following blog is about the logic path we went down to arrive at our blockchain-based solution for storing sensitive customer data.

 

Sensitive Data and the Blockchain

There are numerous reasons sensitive data cannot go on a blockchain such as internal compliance policies, industry regulations, and privacy (e.g. the recent GDPR legislation in Europe), and many more.

 

In addition, blockchain operations are potentially slow and expensive. Smart contract development is also tricky. Compared to "conventional" data-stores smart contracts are hard to write, debug, migrate, secure, and perform searches on.

 

Benefits of Blockchain

Still, even with all the extra complexities, we love blockchain. It enables tons of use cases and gives us immediate benefits that are extremely hard to achieve in conventional systems like:

 

  • Proving ownership
  • Proving data integrity
  • Streamlining business processes across multiple entities
  • Auditable and irrefutable chain of custody
  • Transparent, real-time insight
  • Tracking component life-cycles
  • Improved inventory management
  • Lowered administrative costs
  • Increased security and reduced risk

 

Privacy and Regulatory Shortcomings of Blockchains

Despite the previously mentioned difficulties and because blockchain offers so many benefits, we thought through several approaches to dealing with the privacy and regulatory shortcomings of storing sensitive data on blockchains.

 

Option #1 –  Forget About It

First, we should just acknowledge that blockchains offer a unique set of properties and are not a miracle solution for everything that ails us. So it’s worth mentioning that just running a blockchain and doing nothing to protect your sensitive data is always an option but extremely dangerous. Just because blockchain uses cryptography does not mean the data that is stored on it is automatically encrypted or made private.

 

Option #2 –  Encryption

Encrypting the data prior to putting it on the blockchain is an option. However, dealing with keys, especially manually which is prone to human error, is a cumbersome task and also dangerous. For instance, what happens if a key gets compromised? All your information is there forever on the immutable blockchain. How are you going to explain that kind of slip to your corporate customer who now has his financial history laid out there for all to see?

 

Option #3 –  Hashing

Another option is to hash the sensitive data but it comes with a limitation. Storing hashed data is useful if you are okay with being able to only lookup a specific hash. After 7 hashes or however many, are you going to remember which customer is represented by the by the alpha-numeric string 4ac81733639e962ef72ea160d6bdbc0f5cedd3a2fb1d74ce909f0504032c15c2? Good luck.

 

Option #4 –  Anonymizing

Of course, there’s the option to simply anonymize data. However, that is only partially useful as it does not make sense to display anonymized data to the customer. Furthermore, scrubbing data so it’s not personally identifiable can be done to various degrees. So that leaves you with a choice (or analysis) on how far and to what degree of anonymization you should use? Higher levels cost more in resource time, labor, and expense. Lower levels offer less privacy.

 

Option #5 –  Splitting the Data

Splitting the data model and only storing the minimum amount of information on the blockchain is also an alternative. Repercussions here lead to introductions of additional components into the architecture, which means you have another database to manage. It also means you have to deal with the compliance constraint of only storing the core data on the blockchain that is not in conflict with company policy mandates.

 

Best of Both Worlds

That said, splitting the data delivers the benefits of both the blockchain system for proving data was not tampered with and the custom datastore system for keeping sensitive data private. The trick is to get the synchronization right. To do that, you have to determine what’s the primary source of truth and then figure out what’s the identifier you can use to "join" the records of the local database and the blockchain. Get that right and you’re on your way. Of course, you will have to deal with conflicts, but that is a classical problem in distributed systems and is well explored.

 

Conclusion

Our passion led us to figure out the right combination of blockchain and custom database was in order to provide the DevOps world with a new, never before seen solution for storing sensitive customer data. CodeNotary is an application for verifying continuous trust throughout the entire software development process. It allows for global integrity and identity verification of digital assets including /images/blog, containers, dependencies, libraries, tools, and the entire DevOps code universe.

 

In the end, we take privacy seriously. We acknowledge that blockchain is not the perfect solution for everything. Like anything, it has trade-offs. We just like to figure out how to get the best of both worlds.

 

Check out how we use a private permissioned blockchain to get the best of both worlds for CodeNotary’s one-stop-shop solution for immutable digital asset verification.

 

Test Out CodeNotary Free for Yourself

or

See How It Works

CNIL
Metrics and Logs

(formerly, Opvizor Performance Analyzer)

VMware vSphere & Cloud
PERFORMANCE MONITORING, LOG ANALYSIS, LICENSE COMPLIANCE!

Monitor and Analyze Performance and Log files:
Performance monitoring for your systems and applications with log analysis (tamperproof using immudb) and license compliance (RedHat, Oracle, SAP and more) in one virtual appliance!

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest product updates, company news, and special offers delivered right to your inbox.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Use Case - Tamper-resistant Clinical Trials

Goal:

Blockchain PoCs were unsuccessful due to complexity and lack of developers.

Still the goal of data immutability as well as client verification is a crucial. Furthermore, the system needs to be easy to use and operate (allowing backup, maintenance windows aso.).

Implementation:

immudb is running in different datacenters across the globe. All clinical trial information is stored in immudb either as transactions or the pdf documents as a whole.

Having that single source of truth with versioned, timestamped, and cryptographically verifiable records, enables a whole new way of transparency and trust.

Use Case - Finance

Goal:

Store the source data, the decision and the rule base for financial support from governments timestamped, verifiable.

A very important functionality is the ability to compare the historic decision (based on the past rulebase) with the rulebase at a different date. Fully cryptographic verifiable Time Travel queries are required to be able to achieve that comparison.

Implementation:

While the source data, rulebase and the documented decision are stored in verifiable Blobs in immudb, the transaction is stored using the relational layer of immudb.

That allows the use of immudb’s time travel capabilities to retrieve verified historic data and recalculate with the most recent rulebase.

Use Case - eCommerce and NFT marketplace

Goal:

No matter if it’s an eCommerce platform or NFT marketplace, the goals are similar:

  • High amount of transactions (potentially millions a second)
  • Ability to read and write multiple records within one transaction
  • prevent overwrite or updates on transactions
  • comply with regulations (PCI, GDPR, …)


Implementation:

immudb is typically scaled out using Hyperscaler (i. e. AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure) distributed across the Globe. Auditors are also distributed to track the verification proof over time. Additionally, the shop or marketplace applications store immudb cryptographic state information. That high level of integrity and tamper-evidence while maintaining a very high transaction speed is key for companies to chose immudb.

Use Case - IoT Sensor Data

Goal:

IoT sensor data received by devices collecting environment data needs to be stored locally in a cryptographically verifiable manner until the data is transferred to a central datacenter. The data integrity needs to be verifiable at any given point in time and while in transit.

Implementation:

immudb runs embedded on the IoT device itself and is consistently audited by external probes. The data transfer to audit is minimal and works even with minimum bandwidth and unreliable connections.

Whenever the IoT devices are connected to a high bandwidth, the data transfer happens to a data center (large immudb deployment) and the source and destination date integrity is fully verified.

Use Case - DevOps Evidence

Goal:

CI/CD and application build logs need to be stored auditable and tamper-evident.
A very high Performance is required as the system should not slow down any build process.
Scalability is key as billions of artifacts are expected within the next years.
Next to a possibility of integrity validation, data needs to be retrievable by pipeline job id or digital asset checksum.

Implementation:

As part of the CI/CD audit functionality, data is stored within immudb using the Key/Value functionality. Key is either the CI/CD job id (i. e. Jenkins or GitLab) or the checksum of the resulting build or container image.

White Paper — Registration

We will also send you the research paper
via email.

CodeNotary — Webinar

White Paper — Registration

Please let us know where we can send the whitepaper on CodeNotary Trusted Software Supply Chain. 

Become a partner

Start Your Trial

Please enter contact information to receive an email with the virtual appliance download instructions.

Start Free Trial

Please enter contact information to receive an email with the free trial details.