Zero-Knowledge Proofs (ZK Proofs) are not new, but with the rise in buying, selling, trading, and using various types of cryptocurrencies, they are one of the main trends on the rise. Although the original technology is old, the concept and technology of the platform is currently the focus of a technological ‘gold-rush’. This is having a great impact on Cybersecurity, and IT Support LA, as well as our fellow members of the IT Support Los Angeles Community, are keeping a close eye on the development.

While all IT Support and Services firms that provide Cybersecurity can take advantage of this cryptology tool, the advancements in the technology are already providing more secure encryption for normal network applications such as email.

The first, and most obvious recipient of the benefits of ZK Proofs is Blockchain, the database system which facilitates the secure movements and verifications of data, especially as concerns cryptocurrencies. In the past, there have been holes in their privacy practices which their IT support Cybersecurity team MUST plug before Blockchain begins to lose market share to more secure platforms.

What is a Zero-Knowledge Proof?

A ZK Proof is a cryptographic technique which enables online parties in a transaction to verify knowledge of a certain thing without revealing the thing itself, such as proof of a personal identity. Party A wishes to prove their identity to Party B without revealing Personally Identifiable Information (PII), such as your name, address or even your Social Security Number (SSN). The long, technical name of the application used by Blockchain and Zcash is ‘zk-SNARK’ (zero-knowledge, Succinct, Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge).

This may sound like it makes no sense, or perhaps it’s initially hard to see how such a thing can be possible, but it is not technological smoke-and-mirrors – it is already being done – it just needs to be done faster. Just imagine that you watched the 1969 moon landing live, and somebody told you that in 30 years, you would be able to carry around more computing power on both the Columbia and Eagle in your hip pocket – and you would use it to do everything from banking to shopping to booking airline flights – and, of course, watching cat videos and arguing with strangers…

Modern online transactions often require divulging personal, medical or financial information to complete the transaction. Most of us do not want that information floating through cyberspace where anyone could grab it. Perhaps you need to prove you have sufficient funds to complete a large purchase but do not want to show your bank statements. ZK Proofs allow the seller to be able to verify that you know you have the funds without revealing them.

This is a giant leap away from the vulnerabilities of passwords, which are often the second weakest link in Cybersecurity – the weakest link being the end-users themselves, which is why IT Support LA is a strong proponent of ongoing Security Awareness Training. IT services can only do so much – end users must learn not to fall into traps laid by cyber criminals.

How do ZK proofs work?

Often the best way to describe them without resorting to ten minute’s worth of ‘Geek Speak’ is with a story or analogy. Cryptographer Jean-Jacques Quisquater developed the story of ‘The Ali Baba Cave’ in his paper "How to Explain Zero-Knowledge Protocols to Your Children" to explain the concept.

The setup: Peggy (P) and Victor (V) stand before a cave which is shaped like a ring, with the entrance on one side and the magic door blocking the opposite side. Peggy says she knows the password and Victor (who already knows the word) wants proof. Peggy does not want to give Victor the actual password as proof, so Victor devises a way to verify that she has it, and ensure that no lurking 3rd party observer can watch and also verify that she knows the secret word.

Cryptowiki provides a breakdown of the sequencing in which private verification can be obtained HERE.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who invented zero knowledge proof?

A:  MIT professors Shafi Goldwasser, Silvio Mical along with Charles Rekkofom invented and developed ZK Proof beginning in 1982, and published them in the article "Knowledge and complexity of interactive proof systems" in 1985. Continuing the development, the three were awarded the Gedel Prize and Goldwasser and Mical won the Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) A.M. Turing Award.

Q: What problem does a Zero-knowledge proof best solve?

A: ZK Proof facilitates transmitting sensitive information with better privacy and security. It builds a secure channel for the users to employ their information without revealing it. It circumvents the possibility of data leakage.

Q: How does zero knowledge protect my privacy?

A:  Depending on the software you use, you have an ‘Encryption Key’ which no one else has access to, not even your service provider. ZK Proof enhances the end-to-end encryption process to ensure that no one can see your information in a readable format. It is the height of the Cybersecurity protection of your privacy online.

Q: What is a blockchain in simple terms?

A: Essentially, Blockchain is a type of database system that records and stores information in a secure manner that makes it generally impossible to hack, alter or in any other way defraud the system. It is perhaps most notably used in transactions involving cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

It stores data in ‘blocks’ which are then ‘chained’ together. As new data comes in, it is entered into a fresh block. Once the block is filled with data it is chained to the previous block, so that the data chained together is in chronological order, thus maintaining the integrity of the data sequence.

Q: What is Zero-knowledge proof and its role in the Blockchain world?

A:  Simply put, Blockchain, although strongly protected, has had vulnerabilities which cyber criminals have successfully exploited. For any firm using Blockchain databases, it is crucial for either their in-house IT Support Department or their outsourced Managed IT Services are familiar with these vulnerabilities and take steps to secure them.

The ongoing implementation of ZK Proofs will allow Blockchain even more impenetrable Cybersecurity.