The Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts – ‘IC3’, a NYC-based consortium of leading academics and industry leaders who are driving innovations in blockchains and distributed ledgers for financial and other applications, has released three publications that study the use of Intel® Software Guard Extensions in blockchain implementations. Intel SGX is a technology for applications that require enhanced protection of select code and data from disclosure or modification. Intel SGX makes such protections possible through the use of enclaves or trusted execution environments.
The three papers study the use of Intel SGX as a technology for improving privacy and security of off chain contracts and trust in side channels. The blockchain applications developed by IC3 and used during the research include Hawk, Town Crier and Sealed-Glass Proofs.
Hawk creates a decentralized smart contract system that does not store financial transaction information visibly on the blockchain. It enables programmers to generate smart contracts without needing in-depth knowledge of cryptography as the compiler automatically generates an efficient cryptographic protocol to interact with the blockchain.
Town Crier seeks to enable smart contracts to extract data from existing data sources. The Town Crier architecture creates a conduit between source-authenticated data to smart contracts on the blockchain. Additionally, it supports private data requests for online data sources when confidentiality is required.
Sealed-Glass Proofs models the capabilities of trusted hardware, such as Intel SGX, that can attest to ‘correct execution’ of a piece of code, but maintains ‘transparency’ of the content of smart contracts even in presence of side channels. Sealed-Glass Proofs determined that any ‘information leakage’ that occurred only resulted in the prover learning his or her own secrets.
Elaine Shi, IC3 co-Director and Associate Professor of Computer Science at Cornell University, said: “IC3 is using Intel SGX in our blockchain solutions and technologies to enhance the performance, reliability and security of distributed ledgers. This includes research into Intel SGX as an enabling technology for the privacy and security of smart contracts, cryptocurrencies, and authenticated data feeds.”
Blockchain portfolio director for Intel’s New Business Initiatives, Michael Reed remarked: “Intel continues to advance the science and application of blockchain technology. IC3 has demonstrated how Intel Software Guard Extensions can improve the security, scalability, and privacy of distributed ledger deployments.”