nChain patent-pending inventions promise to fend off Bitcoin wallet hacks

Before Bitcoin adoption can grow any further, consumers and operators first need to be sure that their private keys cannot be stolen.

Blockchain technology research and development outfit nChain, which was once described as a secretive Bitcoin startup, was present at the Bitkan-hosted 2017 Shape the Future Blockchain Global Summit in Hong Kong to discuss what the team has been up to—mainly “lots and lots of patent applications” that will “enable companies to perform more complex functionality on the Bitcoin network.”

One of nChain’s foundational techniques is the patent-pending Deterministic Key Generation technique, which enables secure communication between the parties without the need to store the common secret, since the common secret can be separately determined by each party as required on the basis of the shared message.

“What we believe this is is a pivotal security invention,” Jimmy Nguyen, chief IP, communications and legal officer of nChain, said during a technical session at the recently-held blockchain summit. “The common secret is instead separately determined by each party on the basis of a shared message. The benefits are increased security for things such as a digital wallet for control of bitcoin or any other form of digital asset.”

Another key early innovation from the nChain team is the Secure Split Key technique, which builds upon the first technique so that users can store a private key in such a way that it cannot be obtained by an unauthorized party, but it can also be reproduced when needed.

“What it [does] is to split cryptographic keys… into a plurality of shares,” Nguyen said. “Each of those fragments or shares are stored in separate places, controlled separately and the key can be restored and regenerated from two or more of those shares depending on how the system is set up. What this does is avoid the security risks of the single person, a single wallet provider, any single source holding the private key or trusting it to some third party.”

Aside from the two techniques, nChain’s other early innovations include agent-based Turing complete transactions (off-chain), secure voting regime, registry and automated management method for blockchain-enforced smart contracts, a security computer software using a distributed hash table and a blockchain, and a blockchain-implemented method for control and distribution of digital content.

“nChain’s mission in a nutshell, is to enable Bitcoin’s exponential growth for everyone to win. And that’s something that’s important for you to all understand,” Nguyen said. “We are an enabling company. We are developing research and technologies that, of course, we want to find business success with, but it’s really designed for all of you and the people around the world in the bitcoin community to use to enable you to achieve your wins.”

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