Blockchain is the transparent and secure decentralized ledger behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but its usefulness extends to a lot of other areas of tech. Now the two companies will use it to uniquely identify hard drives — and perhaps other products — to prevent counterfeiting. IBM blockchain leader Jerry Cuomo recently told me that Big Blue has 1,500 blockchain specialists.
The joint project is designed to help manufacturers, integrators, and business partners fight counterfeit hard drives, using the IBM Blockchain Platform to authenticate the provenance of disk drive products and bringing a new level of multi-layered security protection to the data management industry.
According to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, global trade in counterfeit and pirated electronics has reached more than $1.7 trillion.
To counter this, the partners are creating an “electronic fingerprinting” system. Blockchain technology provides an immutable record of an object of value throughout its entire life cycle, so that no single party can change or append the data without the consensus of the network.
Once on the blockchain, data can be shared with other relevant parties that have permissioned access — so the entire ecosystem of trading partners can ensure that what they are getting is authentic.
To verify product authenticity, Seagate will update the IBM Blockchain Platform on the IBM Cloud with product authentication data based on the Seagate Secure Electronic ID (eID) at the point of manufacture.
Each unique identifier can be used to verify the identity of a hard drive at any time during its product life cycle. Seagate’s Certified Erase employs cryptographic erasure technology to produce a digital certificate of data purge, which is electronically signed by the device under the Seagate Secure public key infrastructure (PKI) and stored on the blockchain for compliance management with emerging global data privacy laws.
Building upon IBM’s blockchain expertise and powered by the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric distributed ledger framework, the IBM Blockchain Platform is designed to allow network participants to append and view blockchain data based on their level of permissioning.
Throughout a product’s life, technology vendors, service providers, and consumers will be able to confirm the product’s provenance on the blockchain, which provides an immutable record of events. This can help reduce data loss, fraudulent products, and warranty costs, while improving product assurance for customers during deployment.
“Blockchain technology can be extremely effective in confirming provenance and authenticity of assets,” said Bruce Anderson, global managing director for the electronics industry at IBM, in a statement. “The ability to work with Seagate to combine blockchain with advanced cryptographic product identification technology is what sets this work apart and signals blockchain’s potential to reimagine the electronics product life cycle management processes. Counterfeit electronics components are a global issue that requires an ecosystem-wide effort to address.”
The eID and Certified Erase capabilities are built on Seagate Secure technology, which can enable higher levels of trust of product provenance and proof of data erasure. Customers can benefit from knowing that a drive is a genuine Seagate product and that any data on it can be securely erased, which can assist customers with their efforts to adhere to international compliance standards.
“IBM has a proven history of technology innovation, as evidenced by its market leadership in blockchain technology for product provenance in various industries,” said Mark Re, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Seagate, in a statement. “By combining Seagate’s innovations in product security with IBM’s blockchain expertise, we want to prove that we can help reduce the incidence of product counterfeiting in the future.”
As project development continues in this combined effort to fight global product counterfeiting, Seagate and IBM are anticipating that they will expand the business network to include participation from supply chain partners.