Towards a Better Digital Identity
From enterprise security to government-issued IDs to school diplomas, the advent of blockchain technology has renewed our hope in secure and collaborative identity management. The combination of tamper-proof data and decentralization across a network of participants lends to making digital identity work better for all areas of identity, access, and credentials. Identity can mean quite a few things, so here is a rough breakdown of the areas covered in this post:
- Credentials Management: The infrastructure for better credentials management — proving the identity and accomplishments of students and professionals as they navigate their career path
- Access Management: One source of truth for identity and associated access credentials — building visibility across department units and industries for better enterprise security
- Identity Management: The idea of “self-sovereign” identity — where users autonomously control their data and can prove its legitimacy on a turnkey basis, bypassing administrative third parties and bringing privacy to consumer data
Part 1 — Industry and Academic Credentials
Credentials serve to provide proof of legitimate qualifying documentation across a variety of industries including general education, healthcare, government, and workforce systems. We use credentials to build foundational systems of trust on which we hire, collaborate, and associate with professionals. By indicating qualifications and authority, documented credentials allow society to securely place individuals in their core competencies — better inputs for better outputs.
However, the sectors that rely on trusted credential information the most have quantifiable legitimacy issues:
- In education, roughly 200,000 bogus degrees are awarded to students, or “customers” around the world on an annual basis from “diploma mills.” [Source]
- In the general workforce, nearly 75 percent of hiring managers reported catching fabrications on job applicants’ resumes. [Source]
- In all cases, replacing an employee can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $40,000 depending on the context of hire. [Source]
In addition to the potential for fraud, digital credentials seem to have fallen prey to a sickness that has overtaken every industry: the data silo. Reconciling data sources and the trail of documentation leaves gaps for error and unnecessary overhead resulting in slow time-to-verify cycles and potential for fraud.
Blockchain technology is a distributed system of record that chronologically tracks and stores data across a network of participants. This architecture inherently lends itself to facilitating trusted data exchange, championing interoperability across enterprise borders, and tracing the historical path of information from origin to present. For enterprises, this means applying trusted interoperability to existing systems and industries to alleviate complexity in collaboration and destroy exploitable data silos.
Blockchain Technology provides the opportunity for ownership of verifiable records — trusted and provable via cryptography. At the high level, a blockchain architecture provides the current credential landscape with:
- Proof of identity and consequent ownership of credentials tied to identity
- Verification of credential legitimacy (Proof that credentials had not been historically manipulated)
- Transparency of all information related to the lifecycle of documented credentials including when and how they are issued, earned, and shared
- A single source of truth for digital credentials, versus a disparate smattering of data silos
The benefits of applying blockchain technology concepts to credentials spans across a variety of industries, but we’ll focus on three overarching sectors to illustrate them:
Streamlining Diploma Verification and Preventing Resume Fraud with Blockchain Technology
A fair amount of fraud occurs in academic records, from the smallest lie (faking club participation) to the largest frauds (faking university diplomas). In fact, roughly 200,000 bogus degrees are awarded to students, or “customers” around the world on an annual basis. [source]. Diploma Mills are common businesses across the globe.
This level of rampant fraud, juxtaposed against the fact that we haven’t changed the way in which we distribute, share, and verify credentials is costing employers. In fact, replacing an employee can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $40,000 depending on the context of hire.
Students with blockchain-backed record of academic accomplishment can provide potential employers with assurance that their credentials are trustworthy. Their complete history of academic achievements could be recorded on a blockchain ledger — outputting a unique fingerprint of their specific trail of accomplishments from diplomas and grades down to micro-achievements like attendance or club participation. To verify the legitimacy of their resume/CV, a potential employer could take the output of the candidate’s digital certificate and run it through an online hashing algorithm. Thanks to the immutable cryptography in place, the employer can mathematically determine the legitimacy of the provided credentials.
Blockchain for a Better Academic Credential Ecosystem:
- Prove the legitimacy of academic credentials
- Reduce diploma and resume fraud.
- Build a better digital infrastructure for facilitating transcript verification between institutions, students, and employers.
Benefits across the Value Chain:
Employers can hire and build a highly-qualified, trustworthy workforce while reducing the cost, time, and speculation involved with vetting candidates. Students can have confidence that their credentials are secured and won’t be subject to suspicion.
Credentialing in the healthcare system is a necessary process in order to efficiently place qualified nurses and practitioners in a clinical specialty with the required due diligence. But the process today is painfully slow, as collecting and maintaining artifacts about practitioner’s background and experience is currently accomplished through reconciling multiple data sources, spreadsheets, and offline documents. In fact, it is common for nurses and practitioners to have their individual credential assets spread across more than 20 different centralized sources (networks, payers, hospitals, etc.)
This slow, data-silo-ridden process hits the bottom line quite hard: According to SkillSurvey, “The cost of just one month’s delay in credentialing the average primary care physician can amount to over $30,000 in lost revenue due to the inability to bill for services. For a hospital hiring 50 primary care physicians annually, such a delay can cost over $1.5 million.”
This complexity simply multiplies with the level of risk associated with fraudulent credentials. In 2015, Massachusetts regulators found 13 nurses lied about having nursing degrees. And earlier this year, a man admitted to working in 3 St. Louis healthcare facilities with completely fraudulent nursing credentials. On the global stage, thousands of international nurses fake their credentials every year, according to a report in the Journal of Nursing Regulation.
Blockchain technology can improve the delays in verifying nurse and practitioner credentials by hosting the credential data on a distributed system of record — a singular and universal source of truth. By hosting historical credentials on a blockchain ledger, healthcare professionals can own and share a single and immutable track of their digital identity.
Blockchain Benefits for a Better Healthcare Credential Ecosystem
- Holistically track credentials across a practitioner’s professional lifecycle as they move between hospitals and payers, accrue experiences and certifications, and move into new positions.
- Prove the authenticity of healthcare licensure via blockchain cryptography
- Improve visibility for all stakeholders in the healthcare credentialing process via a single source of truth; improve interoperability and reduce data silos, duplication, and redundancy.
- Severely reduce costs, complexity, and time associated with verifying credentials
Government and Citizenship
Federal, state, and local governments around the world should be actively exploring blockchain as a valuable technology for both their internal efficiencies as well as providing trust and security to their constituents. Public sector agencies are involved with issuing credentials across a host of departments, including internal documentation (federal personnel workforce data,) publicly issued IDs (passports, SSN, birth certificates, visas,) and even land titles.
As issuing and verifying credentials is a fairly nascent but distributed task across various public agencies, the advent of blockchain creates a set of unique opportunities to improve transparency, efficiency and trust in the current credentialing process across the entire public sector.
Part 2— Identity and Access Management
Within the digital enterprise, IAM (identity and access management) is a foundational security framework to ensure that the appropriate people have the appropriate level of access to resources (information and tools) through identification, authentication, and authorization.
When it comes to the goal of IAM, CSOonline says it best:
“The core objective of IAM systems is one digital identity per individual. Once that digital identity has been established, it must be maintained, modified and monitored throughout each user’s “access lifecycle.”
Traditional IAM measures have not been able to scale with the amount of data created in the typical enterprise, the number of applications that now need to share data (500+ SaaS apps are an average enterprise tool portfolio), and the level of industry interoperability today’s business landscape demands.
Blockchain technology can provide foundational support in facilitating a one-digital-identity-to-one individual ratio that can bring security and visibility to access controls:
- Secure and private authentication
- Provable identity across the enterprise
- Traceable digital identity across the lifecycle of access
- Native audit trail of events (identity events, access events, and entitlement events)
Getting Started with Fluree
No matter how you plan to leverage the benefits of blockchain technology, Fluree is an industry-agnostic blockchain solution focused on powering next-generation applications. We give organizations a powerful toolset to harness the power of immutability for their use case and their business architecture.
- Immutability for Data Integrity
- Private/Public Keys for Proving Ownership
- Configurable Network Consensus for Custom Distributed Ledger
- Permissions as Code for providing on-demand credential verification access to authorized parties
Learn more about Fluree and identity management here.