Microsoft’s Two New Patents Fuse Blockchain With Trusted Computing Techniques

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Two new patents from Microsoft reveal that the tech giant is looking to bolster its blockchain solutions with the use of trusted execution environments (TEEs), according to two filings published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) August 9.

Both applications outline how the use of TEEs could further improve security within a consortium blockchain network, which requires that specific nodes are endorsed to act as validator nodes (VNs) on the blockchain.

As Microsoft’s first patent filing indicates, TEEs can help to improve the security of such networks in the following way:

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“In one example of the technology, a first node is endorsed. During endorsement of a first node, a pre-determined type of blockchain or other security protocol code to be authorized and a pre-determined membership list may be stored in a trusted execution environment (TEE) of the first node.”

According to the patent, not only a specified protocol or membership list, but potentially a series of further agreed-upon aspects could be stored within a TEE. The patent then outlines how using a system of TEE attestations would be able to securely verify all new participants of the system who are found to possess matching information to that which is stored within the first node’s TEE.

Microsoft’s second patent filing from August 9 outlines how a TEE may also facilitate the verification of blockchain transactions within a consortium network. The same TEE attestation system would generate a sufficiently trustless environment in which other VNS on the network would “not need to do re-computation for verification,” allowing a given pre-authorized entity to “directly” broadcast the “updated official state” of a given processed transaction:

“In some examples, the entire network accepts the transactions, including chaincode transactions, and blockchain states are directly updated. In some examples, there is no need for a copy of the transaction in order to confirm a block.”

Just last week, news that Microsoft’s Ethereum-based cloud computing platform Azure had replaced its existing proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanism with a new proof-of-authority (PoA) algorithm. Microsoft has proposed that the new algorithm will improve the efficiency of building decentralized applications (DApps) for private or consortium blockchain networks.

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