Why confidential computing is key to securing cryptocurrencies

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As cryptocurrencies grow, so does the need for securing it.

In the words of Adrien Treccani, CEO of digital asset management company METACO, “dealing with cryptocurrencies has been a disaster.”

“Every year you have a new hacking, companies losing their coins or an employee of the company stealing part of it,” Treccani noted. “You realize that managing cryptographic secrets is not trivial at all when they potentially represent millions or billions of dollars.”

Trecanni spoke about the challenges of securing cryptocurrencies, what confidential computing is and how it works with our European correspondent Chris O’Brien at VentureBeat’s Transform 2021 conference.

The difficulties of keeping cryptocurrencies secure

METACO provides security infrastructure to financial institutions that want to offer cryptocurrency-related services to their clients.  Cryptocurrencies rely upon cryptography — like a very long password — for security. If a bank wants to secure and use them on a daily basis, it needs the appropriate infrastructure.

The challenge lies in not just having to protect cryptographic secrets, but also access within a large corporation, Treccani explained.

He said a successful security framework ensures that even with hundreds of employees interacting with the infrastructure, there’s no point of failure in the chain. “You can be confident that 10 years later, even if you have not actively maintained your platform, you don’t have holes in it that could be exploited by either insiders or outsiders.”

Confidential computing secures cryptocurrencies

Simply put, confidential computing is securing access to a vault.

“At METACO, we started working exclusively with hardware security modules, and we had great solutions to manage the keys,” Trecanni said. “But then, we realized, having an HSM is a bit like having a secure vault. How do you secure the key to the vault?”

The rules are defined by what comes into play. Certain people and employees access the vault and do only what they’re tasked to do.

Security is always a question of tradeoff, Trecanni said.

“You have to position yourself on a scale where you want maximum security, but subject to use cases that you need to satisfy,” he explained.

METACO combines the use of HSM and confidential computing. It’s a relatively new term, but Trecanni said the concept has been around for years. The technology has undergone multiple stages of evolution before it reached its current stage of maturity, he added.

“The ability to leverage a platform which is by design secure, by design confidential, is a game changer,” Trecanni said.

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