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How blockchain may kill the password

Imagine a company that can verify the background of a new employee and onboard them with the click of a single virtual button, or a banking customer who can verify their identity for a loan without exposing personally identifiable information – again with a click of a button.

That’s the potential blockchain holds for decentralized identity management. It’s done  by creating a digital wallet that serves as a repository for all kinds of personal and financial data, info that can only be shared after a specific request and only with the permission of the owner.

Blockchain distributed ledger technology (DLT) – in combination with digital identity verification – holds the potential to solve online privacy issues that plague everything from consumer sales and bank know-your-customer regulations to employee credentials that allow access to confidential business systems.

“There are multiple vendors in this space that are either in the early R&D stage or testing their products in pilot projects,” said Homan Farahmand, a senior research director with Gartner. “It is too early to declare any winner, by any means, because just having a working product is not enough. Decentralized identity requires a vibrant ecosystem, a robust identity trust fabric built on a distributed ledger or blockchain, tools to support user-friendly functionality and good developer experience to support broad adoption.”

One considerable security attribute of storing digital identities on an encrypted, distributed blockchain ledger is eliminating “honey pots,” or central repositories for customer account information, according to Julie Esser, chief engagement officer for CULedger, a Denver-based Credit Union Service Organization (CUSO). Those repositories are prime targets for hackers.

Credit Unions are already testing ID management

Like other CUSOs, CULedger is a cooperative owned by multiple credit unions for the purpose of providing back-office services; it was created a year ago to build out a blockchain-based identity management platform called My CUID. The platform is expected to launch in the second half of 2019 and will hand the keys to data protection over to customers who sign up for an app. CULedger has 36 investors – 26 credit unions and several CUSOs.

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