Use-Case-of-the-month: Certificates

The fields of application for blockchain technology are numerous. Bitcoin and Co are only the best-known examples of a forward-looking technology that gives digitalization an additional level of security.

With the series “Use-Case-of-the-Month” we would like to show the possibilities of a technology, which became well-known by crypto currencies: blockchain. First described in the 90s, the blockchain is today, in simple terms, a method for creating very secure databases. In a blockchain individual entries cannot be manipulated, because they are based on each other in the logic of a Blockchain, are cryptographically linked and are regularly checked by many computers in a Peer-to-Peer network. This is an essential difference to a common database, where entries can be changed afterwards. Meaning: To change entry X in a blockchain, all entries that appeared after entry X would have to be changed as well. This is in theory possible for hackers and fraudsters, but practically impossible. The blockchain technology enables secure transactions in the internet, which cannot be manipulated anymore.

The range of application fields is tremendous. Bitcoin and Co are only the best-known examples of a forward-looking technology that gives digitalization an additional level of security.

Making certificates digital and analog unforgeable

It is estimated that every tenth university diploma in Germany is forged. Potential fraudsters find it easy to fudge their university grades: Numerous instructions and tutorials on the Internet explain the forgery process step by step and the software has no longer been reserved for professional users by now. The fact is: Forging sensitive documents such as certificates is no trivial offence – but apparently more common than the honest average citizen would believe. In times of digital transformation, many companies also have an online application facility. If no certified copy of a certificate is requested, which is often too complicated for many companies, the doors are open to fraud.

Fake doctors, educators as lawyers and fake doctoral degrees on identity cards are just a few examples of how certificate cheating can end. The consequences can be devastating both economically and legally – and the negative press will also have an impact on the company and, in case of doubt, scare away customers or shareholders. From a moral point of view, the honest man loses: Fraudulent applicants have a worse qualification in real terms, which they cover up with doctored grades. The internal and external trust, once confronted with such a case, takes immense damage.

One possible solution would be to only accept applications with certified certificates. In this case, forgery cannot be ruled out beyond any doubt, but the security level is higher than for a simple certificate. Unfortunately, the procedure is very complicated and requires a lot of personnel and paperwork. A database-based solution would be more secure. Name, grade cut and date are stored in a database. This makes it possible to verify whether the existing certificate matches the entry. The big problem here is that databases are often the target of hackers and public databases are very controversial in terms of data security.

The blockchain as a “secure database” addresses exactly this issue: It protects the data saved there against manipulation. A digital fingerprint is created for each certificate, which is stored in a blockchain. Since only coded values are saved, making it impossible to assign them, this method is also compatible with all requirements of data protection law. Once integrated into your own systems via interface, the securing of the certificates is automated and no additional effort is required.

In German-speaking countries, several universities are already using a blockchain-based solution to give their certificates an additional security level – including FOM University for Economics and Management, TU Munich and the University of Salzburg. We at TrustCerts have been working successfully with the FOM University since 2020 and have already helped secure over 10,000 certificates.

Outlook

For many enterprises the blockchain is still something very abstract and is often called alone in the context of the crypto currencies. The possibility of using the blockchain to drive forward meaningful projects in the context of digital transformation is only slowly being recognized. Testimonies can be a first step to sensitize the public to the topic of blockchain in other fields of application. To this end, a comprehensive network of universities would be desirable, which would secure their certificates against fraud using blockchain technology. The advantages for hiring companies, applying graduates and the universities themselves are immense. Digitalization in Germany could take a big step forward.

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