Cryptographic access control infrastructure via proxy re-encryption

Interview with NuCypher CEO MacLane Wilkison

[Host: Keira Zhang, Founder of CryptoGarfield]
[Guest: MacLane Wilkison, CEO of NuCypher]
[Co-host & Editor: Younger Yang, Founder of BlockWide]

Q: What is NuCypher?

MacLane: NuCypher is a data privacy layer for blockchain decentralized application. We give developers a way to store, share and manage private data on public blockchains, or more specifically file systems like IPFS or SWARM.

For example, if you are building a medical record application on top of Etherium and you want to store patient records on IPFS, you need some way to have those be private, confidential and encrypted, but then still have those encrypted records to be shareable with like a doctor or a hospital or some valid recipients and this the access control infrastructure that basically we are providing.

Q: Any existing solution that can solve this problem?

MacLane: Not for decentralized applications. Say if you wanted to build a medical records on top of Ethereum without NuCypher, the way you would probably do it is either you would have to share the private key for the encrypted record with the doctor which obviously isn’t secure or you have to download the data, decrypt it and encrypt it with recipients’ public keys and send it to them which is obviously very clunky. So with NuCypher it makes it a lot easier and more performance and secure as well.

Q: What does NuCypher token do?

MacLane: The function of the token is for staking. So if you stake the token as a collateral or security deposit, that gives you the ability to run a node for the NuCypher network. So you provide this re-encryption service to the users of the network, and you get paid the network fees in ETH and you also participate in the inflation schedule of NuCypher so you will get NuCypher tokens as well.

Q: How hard it is to become a NuCypher node?

MacLane: It doesn’t require any specialized hardware, so it’s not like Bitcoin mining. For small stakes you could even do it on a Raspberry Pi. The availability is important, so you want a stable internet connection and probably some sort of uninterruptible power supply but other than that, like commodity hardware would work. It doesn’t require a lot of power because the proxy re-encryption is a relatively cheap computation.

Q: What’s your background and how about the team?

MacLane: <check it out in the video>

Q: Who are NuCypher’s competitors?

MacLane: In the non-blockchain space, the closest technology would be either traditional public encryption or data masking and data tokenization.

In the blockchain space, the closet set of technologies would be secure multi-party computation. There are significant differences but you can use proxy re-encryption multi-party computation to achieve similar things around data sharing. Enigma Project is probably the most high-profile project working on that technology.

Q: What applications are being built on NuCypher?

MacLane :Fundamentally it is a horizontal infrastructure for anyone that’s managing private data in the decentralized application. The early verticals where we’ve got a lot of traction, one has been this healthcare use case storing encrypted medical records on IPFS sharing it with doctors or hospitals. MediBloc is one of the early users and we’ve got many projects that are doing similar things.

Another vertical has been data exchanges, data marketplaces. Projects like Datum Team which are aggregating a bunch of data, eg. browsing history, social media data, genomics data, they are encrypting it and they are conditionally decrypting/selling it in exchange for payment to advertisers or researchers. They can use NuCypher to say, give this person access to data if they pay 5 ETH to the data address.

Another big vertical has been decentralized database where NuCypher adds the access control layer for projects like Bluzelle, Fluence and Wolk.

There are a lot of interesting stuff around IOT, like how you encrypt data going back and forth between edge devices.

Another great use case is end-to-end encrypted group chats. Proxy re-encryption is very good for having large group chats that’s end-to-end encrypted, it’s a very scalable and performant solution.

Q: Proxy re-encryption has been there for long, is it easy to implement? Why nobody used it in the similar way as NuCypher before?

MacLane: <hint: in the video>

Q: Can you explain what proxy re-encryption is?

MacLane: <easy-to-understand example given in the video without digging into the paper>

Thank you MacLane Wilkison, NuCypher!


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Video of the interview