Skywire for Corporations

Skycoin Accenture
Improving the Internet is no longer a niche topic. Accenture recently published a new research report called “Securing the Digital Economy – Reinventing the Internet for Trust”. They outlined several problems where current usage of the Internet and its fragile underlying infrastructure puts the digital economy at risk and identified three areas (governance, business architecture, technology), where companies need to promote changes or innovate themselves. While they will certainly spread their findings among their customers, they also sponsored the trending hashtag “InternetofTrust” with the caption “The Internet is broken” on Twitter, to spread awareness about the problems the Internet currently faces. It should be interesting to apply Accenture’s report to Skycoin’s vision of a new Internet, to see in how far Skywire delivers solutions for the identified challenges.

As one of the leading global management consulting companies,1 Accenture has an insight on challenges, that corporations are facing all over the world. Accordingly, their research report identified several challenges that are affecting the digital economy. They suggest, that solutions for these challenges can be made “Above Ground” and “Below Ground”. “Above Ground” describes improvements in governance and business infrastructure, that are mainly performed by the corporations themselves. “Below Ground” refers to improvements in the technical infrastructure, that will mostly be developed by third parties,2 such as Skycoin. In the following, we will take a look at the challenges Accenture identified and will discuss in how far Skycoin can contribute to solving these challenges.
Challenge 1: Outdated Infrastructure
The report starts with the most obvious challenge: The Internet wasn’t originally designed for this kind of mass adoption we have seen over the past two decades. It’s original purpose was to be a trusted communications network underground, that would enable high levels of data sharing and could withstand a nuclear attack.3 Once just a military asset, the Internet went on to evolve into an open infrastructure, that outpaced the introduction of adequate safeguards.4 Many of the base Internet protocols have grown historically and are therefore insecure and unfit for current demands.5 Centralization of institutions that run the Internet’s infrastructure is also considered as a security issue. An example for this vulnerability happened in 2017, when traffic to and from 80 Internet service providers were temporarily rerouted to an unknown Russian operator.6

Adapting the historically grown, widely-used infrastructure of the Internet to better standards might be a nearly impossible task. Skycoin therefore decided to build an improved version of the Internet from the ground up. They tackle centralization of ISPs by designing Skywire as a decentralized meshnet, that encourages users to be their own ISP.6 Skywire’s networking standard shall be an approach similar to multiprotocol label switching (MPLS),7 which forwards packets based on a predefined path and is therefore faster than the currently in use Internet protocol (IP), which lacks path control.8 The communication protocol should also improve security, since it is end-to-end encrypted and each node on a packet’s route can only see the previous and next hop for a packet.9

Challenge 2: The IoT Effect
The second challenge identified by Accenture is based on the growing number of devices connected in the Internet of Things (IoT). They state that due to IoT enterprise networks have grown from thousands of end points to several million end points, which puts them at risk because every connected device is a potential vulnerability.10 The report is a bit vague in that regard and doesn’t mention specific security issues, but I would assume they are talking about the difficulty of preventing unauthorized access to IoT devices via potential back doors and the challenge of keeping the software of all IoT devices up to date.

It is difficult to say, in how far Skycoin will improve these security concerns, since they are mostly individual software related issues or managed by the IoT device manufacturers. Skycoin is working on self-designed hardware and software,11 which might not have any back doors, but expanding their hardware manufacturing plans to IoT devices isn’t currently one of their top priorities. However, security issues aren’t the only uncertainty around IoT devices. The total number of IoT devices is expected to grow by 17% per year, from 7 billion devices in 2018 to 21.5 billion devices in 2025.12 The current centralization of Internet service providing will most likely have too many bottlenecks to process all this data, which is why future IoT networks need to be decentralized.13 Skywire aims to be such a decentralized mesh network and should therefore be better suited to connect massive amounts of IoT devices than the current Internet.14

Challenge 3: Identity Management
Accenture’s report lists identity management as third challenge in the digital world. Individuals use several digital identities and it can be challenging to verify, whether their alleged digital identity corresponds to their real identity, is a fictional identity or is somebody else’s stolen identity. The average Internet user today manages 27 passwords, up from six in 2006.15 Improving identity management is not one of Skycoin’s core goals as of right now, but since blockchain is considered as a method to improve identity storage,16 Skycoin could certainly provide interested developers with their own highly scalable blockchain on Skycoin’s platform Fiber.17

Challenge 4: Digital Fragmentation
Challenge number four in Accenture’s report is the increasing fragmentation of the Internet. The free flow of data across borders is more and more limited due to regulations introduced in a growing number of countries. The reasons behind this Internet balkanization are concerns about borderless cyberattacks and geopolitical tensions. This ongoing development has led to an increasing number of isolated information systems and is generally threatening to stunt global economic growth.18

Skycoin is well aware of cyberbalkanization. In fact, they are the creators of a four-part series of articles, that might be the most comprehensive publications on cyberbalkanization on the entire web. Fighting the consequences of cyberbalkanization to protect a borderless, censorship-resistant and neutral Internet is one of the main motivations behind the development of Skywire.19 The key for solving this challenge is Skycoin’s approach to decentralize the web. Decentralized hosting and decentralized data storage are way more difficult to censor than centralized solutions. Other than that, the end-to-end encryption of Skywire makes it impossible to monitor the content of a data transmission from the outside.20

Challenge 5: Potential Costs of Insecurity and Investments in Cybersecurity
All four previous issues identified by Accenture lead to challenge number five – rising costs. Technological inefficiencies and vulnerabilities put companies at risk of losing an estimated 5.2 trillion USD in value creation opportunities from the digital economy over the next five years.21 That’s why corporations started to increase their investments in cybersecurity. Gartner estimated that 114 billion USD were spent in 2018 on cybersecurity and they forecast, that 124 billion USD will be spent in 2019.22 Venture capital investors also invested 33 billion USD in security startups since 2009, which is apparently a larger sum, than they invested in blockchain startups.23

These investments show, that companies aim to build upon a more secure infrastructure in the future. However, with gradual improvements to the current infrastructure of the Internet, I see the risk of solving only temporary issues but not fighting their underlying causes. Skycoin’s approach to build a new Internet from the ground up is certainly more complicated in the short-term, but it could succeed at solving some of the Internet’s underlying issues in the long-term. The fulfillment of Skycoin’s visionary mesh net infrastructure should therefore be in the interest of all companies in the digital economy. Given the enormous investments in security startups, some of the large corporations in the digital economy might even be interested to accelerate the implementation of Skywire with a strategic investment.
The article showed five challenges identified in Accenture’s recently published research report, that put the digital economy at risk. The report stated, that the rapid growth of the Internet couldn’t keep up with the introduction of necessary improvements at its base level. Its standard protocols are unfit for current demands and will be put to a test, when billions of IoT devices will be connected to the Internet in the next years. But not only machines put the web to a test, managing the identities of individuals is another challenging task for corporations. The report also stated, that the ongoing digital fragmentation of the world wide web will most likely slow global economic growth down. All these challenges will result in higher costs for companies, which have already invested 114 billion USD in 2018 in cybersecurity.

Skycoin’s flagship product Skywire – currently in development and not released yet – can be a solution for some of the challenges identified in Accenture’s report. Skywire has generally been perceived as a censorship-resistant platform, that allows individuals to use the web without being surveilled by centralized institutions. But as applying its core design principles like decentralization or end-to-end encryption to the five discussed challenges showed, Skywire should be a very interesting implementation for corporations and could generally help to move the digital economy to new levels of connectivity.
“Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions—underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network—Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With 469,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives.”
Omar Abbosh & Kelly Bissell; Full Research Report: Securing the Digital Economy – Reinventing the Internet for Trust; About Accenture; 24.01.2019
“Above ground, the strategic initiatives of CEOs can lead to standards and best practices. Below ground, through innovative technology improvements, CEOs can invest in improving the Internet’s infrastructure.”
Omar Abbosh & Kelly Bissell; Full Research Report: Securing the Digital Economy – Reinventing the Internet for Trust; Building on Trust; 24.01.2019
“The Internet was not initially designed to address issues like perpetually increasing levels of complexity and connectivity. It was developed to enable high levels of data sharing, which requires trust. Researchers during the Cold War aimed to build a trusted communications network underground that could withstand a nuclear attack.”
Omar Abbosh & Kelly Bissell; Full Research Report: Securing the Digital Economy – Reinventing the Internet for Trust; The Internet Just Can’t Keep Up; 24.01.2019
“As the Internet evolved from a military asset to an open infrastructure, security considerations, such as they were, focused on preventing physical failures.”
Omar Abbosh & Kelly Bissell; Full Research Report: Securing the Digital Economy – Reinventing the Internet for Trust; The Internet Just Can’t Keep Up; 24.01.2019
“Today, many of the base Internet protocols — the set of rules embedded in code so all machines on a network or series of interconnected networks “speak” the same language — are unfit for current demands and are insecure.”
Omar Abbosh & Kelly Bissell; Full Research Report: Securing the Digital Economy – Reinventing the Internet for Trust; The Internet Just Can’t Keep Up; 24.01.2019
“Skywire is composed of thousands of interconnected hardware nodes, set up by everyday people around the world. These nodes are called Skyminers. These nodes link together to encrypt and transmit internet traffic across borders and around the world, quickly, efficiently and privately.”
Skycoin; YouTube; Channel of Skycoin; 29.05.2018
“The Skywire communication protocol uses Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS), rather than TCP/IP, to enable highly-scalable and high-performance transport of any data across any medium.”
Skycoin; Medium; Skywire, The New Internet for the New World; 11.04.2018
“IP routing lacks flexibility, path control and has some performance issues. Some of the issues with IP routing can be resolved in a pure MPLS network infrastructure. MPLS is more flexible, traffic engineering is easier to implement and packets are forwarded on a predefined path, based on the assigned label to the packet.”
Cisco; YouTube; Introduction to Segment Routing; 23.11.2016
“Skywire’s communication protocol also provides privacy and security advantages over TCP/IP. Each node on a packet’s route can only see the previous hop and the next hop for that packet, not the source, destination, or the content. This is a significant improvement over IPv4, where anyone handling a packet can see both the destination, the source, and worst-of-all, any unencrypted data.”
Skycoin; Medium; Skywire, The New Internet for the New World; 11.04.2018
“More recently, the rise of the IoT has expanded the surface area of attack for enterprise networks from thousands of end points — including remote devices, such as mobile phones and laptops — to several million for the largest companies. At the same time, the IoT compels all companies to suddenly manage what are often unfamiliar technology processes, where every connected device is a potential vulnerability.”
Omar Abbosh & Kelly Bissell; Full Research Report: Securing the Digital Economy – Reinventing the Internet for Trust; The IoT Effect; 24.01.2019
“Our VPN will even have its own hardware devices. And it will be running on hardware we designed ourselves and a full software stack, that we designed ourselves.”
Synth; Telegram; Main Skycoin channel; 06.11.2018
The projected growth of IoT devices is displayed in a graphic in the article.
IoT Analytics; Official Website; State of the IoT 2018: Number of IoT devices now at 7B – Market accelerating; 08.08.2018
“Connectivity: Connecting so many devices will be one of the biggest challenges of the future of IoT, and it will defy the very structure of current communication models and the underlying technologies [2]. At present we rely on the centralized, server/client paradigm to authenticate, authorize and connect different nodes in a network. This model is sufficient for current IoT ecosystems, where tens, hundreds or even thousands of devices are involved. But when networks grow to join billions and hundreds of billions of devices, centralized systems will turn into a bottleneck. Such systems will require huge investments and spending in maintaining cloud servers that can handle such large amounts of information exchange, and entire systems can go down if the server becomes unavailable. The future of IoT will very much have to depend on decentralizing IoT networks. Part of it can become possible by moving some of the tasks to the edge, such as using fog computing models where smart devices such as IoT hubs take charge of mission-critical operations and cloud servers take on data gathering and analytical responsibilities [5]. Other solutions involve the use of peer-to-peer communications, where devices identify and authenticate each other directly and exchange information without the involvement of a broker. Networks will be created in meshes with no single point of failure. This model will have its own set of challenges, especially from a security perspective, but these challenges can be met with some of the emerging IoT technologies such as Blockchain [6].”
Ahmed Bafana; IEEE Internet of Things; Three Major Challenges Facing IoT; 14.03.2017
“Skywire actually have three different networks – one is just a guffi like network. Just a gateway to current internet – another one is a native skywire application thing (That is still like the current internet). New network name space with some improvements. – the third one is like urbit and is based upon source independent networking and is completely latency insensitive. Its more like an interplanetary internet or content addressible storage and is great for anything async (email, uploading data for IoT) but is completely different than the current internet in architecture and is very experimental. Its like a DHT except there are collections of keys and each node has full copy of all keys in a set instead of individual keys. This is CXO”
Synth; Telegram; Main Skycoin channel; 07.03.2018
“Mital comments: “No individual has a single identity that they use in the digital world. This fragmentation requires too much effort for the individual to ensure consistency, reliability and security. As a service provider, if I cannot trust in the digital identity of a person, then that precludes me from providing services that I Identities in Crisis might want to provide, or risk providing services to someone who has stolen another’s identity.” Most individuals who use the Internet have multiple online identities; the average Internet user today manages 27 passwords, up from six in 2006.”
Omar Abbosh & Kelly Bissell; Full Research Report: Securing the Digital Economy – Reinventing the Internet for Trust; Identities in Crisis; 24.01.2019
“That’s why the idea of blockchain for identity is so intriguing. In theory, it will soon be possible to store our personal data on the blockchain, using biometrics to grant access only to those who ask for permission to see it. This could mean a day will come when we no longer need to rely on credit agencies like Equifax to collect and store troves of our personal information. More ambitious visions of identity—backed by the likes of Accenture and Microsoft—envision using blockchain as a way to help refugees and the world’s poor obtain citizenship and immigration records. Best of all, the security features of blockchain could mean hacking and identity theft will become much harder.”
Jeff John Roberts; Official Website of Fortune Magazine; Blockchain for Identity: Too Good to Be True?; 24.01.2019
“Skycoin’s Fiber architecture is a transformational, better-than-blockchain solution which solves existing problems using distributed ledger technology. Fiber is the foundation of blockchain 3.0 and can be best described as an infinitely scalable network of blockchains laid side by side, like strands. This is a technological feat that cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum will never be able to achieve, as they were never engineered to scale infinitely.”
Skycoin; Medium; Skycoin Fiber Platform – The Future of Blockchain 3.0; 03.04.2018
“Another key challenge that demands the attention of CEOs is the increasing fragmentation of the Internet. This trend, fueled in part by security concerns, could by itself stunt future global economic growth. Walled gardens — isolated, secured information systems — are proliferating as countries and regions limit the free flow of data across borders through regulations. Already 13 countries, accounting for 58 percent of the global GDP, have some version of these regulations. Heightened concerns about borderless cyberattacks, coupled with geopolitical tensions, threaten to result in even greater restrictions. Business leaders are already dealing with this reality as they tailor global operating models to countries with more restrictions.”
Omar Abbosh & Kelly Bissell; Full Research Report: Securing the Digital Economy – Reinventing the Internet for Trust; No Flow Versus Free Flow; 24.01.2019
“We are going to publish our most comprehensive article to date on cyberbalkanization and Skywire. Essentially formalising the macro-thesis behind why cyberbalkanization is happening and how Skywire is essential in our fight to protect the borderless, censorship resistant and neutral internet. It is an epic 4 parts series where part 1 alone is over 3000 words. After a lot of research for this series, I think this might even be the most comprehensive article on cyberbalkanization on the entire web period. The original BTC white paper was very concise and the vision resonated with many people right away. Hopefully this series will effectively do the same thing but for Cyberbalkanization instead.”
ChocolateLab;; ChocolateLab – Interviews with the Skycoin Team; 23.08.2018
“The solution to this fractured future is an entirely new internet transmission protocol and web service ecosystem. These platforms must be built from the ground-up to be neutral, stateless, decentralized and open-source. Only through decentralization can internet transmission and data storage be resistant to external manipulation and censorship inherent in 3rd-party ownership of user data. Replacing the US internet with a Chinese or European internet merely shifts the problem to a different geopolitical sphere of influence. The new internet must be built on a foundation of peer-to-peer replicating data structures which obviate the need for centralized servers and its associated vulnerabilities. It must be able to achieve consensus on the state of these data structures between millions of nodes. Traffic on this new internet must be encrypted to defeat attempts at throttling and surveillance yet fast enough to seamlessly replace the current internet protocols. Finally, the global digital citizens must be financially incentivized to build this new internet by providing and consuming bandwidth, storage and computation in a peer-to-peer marketplace.”
Skycoin; Medium; Cyberbalkanization and the Future of the Internets Part I — GLOBAL; 27.08.2018
“For CEOs, one of the most glaring challenges of an insecure Internet is the economic cost. In the private sector, over the next five years companies risk losing an estimated US$5.2 trillion in value creation opportunities from the digital economy.”
Omar Abbosh & Kelly Bissell; Full Research Report: Securing the Digital Economy – Reinventing the Internet for Trust; The Cost of Insecurity; 24.01.2019
“Worldwide spending on information security products and services will reach more than $114 billion in 2018, an increase of 12.4 percent from last year, according to the latest forecast from Gartner, Inc. In 2019, the market is forecast to grow 8.7 percent to $124 billion.”
Gartner; Official Website; Gartner Forecasts Worldwide Information Security Spending to Exceed $124 Billion in 2019; 15.08.2018
“The rising Internet security market is also a hot area for venture capital investors, attracting almost US$33 billion to 2,479 security startups since 2009, exceeding investments in blockchain, which have surged with the interest in business applications and cryptocurrencies.”
Omar Abbosh & Kelly Bissell; Full Research Report: Securing the Digital Economy – Reinventing the Internet for Trust; Keeping Tabs on Cybersecurity Investments; 24.01.2019