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The Complete Guide to Verifiable Credentials

A collection of articles to get you started with Verifiable Credentials

Introduction and Overview

Exploring Verifiable Credentials

Technology and Standards

Introduction to Credentials

Understanding the basics of Credentials.png

Credentials are physical evidence of a person's accomplishments, schooling, or professional skills. They help build trust by showing that a person is credible and knows what they are doing.

Understanding the Basics of Credentials.

Credentials refer to the documents, certifications, or qualifications that individuals possess to validate their skills, knowledge, or identity. They serve as tangible proof of one's achievements, education, or professional expertise. Credentials can come in various forms, such as academic degrees, professional certifications, driver's license, passports or even digital badges.

They act as a means to

  1. Establish credibility,

  2. Showcase competencies, and

  3. Gain recognition in specific fields or industries.

By presenting credentials, individuals can demonstrate their qualifications and distinguish themselves in their chosen areas of expertise.

Significance of Credentials.

Credentials play a vital role in numerous aspects of personal and professional life. They provide a standardized way to evaluate an individual's qualifications, ensuring that they possess the necessary skills and knowledge for specific roles or responsibilities. Credentials not only validate one's expertise but also enable employers, organizations, or educational institutions to make informed decisions regarding hiring, promotions, admissions, or licensing. They serve as a trust-building mechanism, assuring stakeholders of an individual's competence and credibility. 

 

Credentials are important because they validate qualifications, establish trust and credibility, enhance career prospects, ensure compliance with regulations, facilitate networking, and contribute to personal and professional reputation. They provide a framework for evaluating individuals and help stakeholders make informed decisions based on demonstrated expertise and achievements.

Problems with Existing Credentials

Physical credentials can be damaged, lost, or stolen, and they take a long time to handle by manually. Digital identities get around these problems by using modern technologies.

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Challenges with Physical Credentials:  Addressing Limitations and Issues.

Physical credentials, such as paper-based certificates or identification documents, come with a set of limitations and issues.

  1. They are susceptible to damage, loss, or theft, which can lead to significant inconveniences and potential identity fraud.

  2. Verifying the authenticity of physical credentials can be time-consuming and cumbersome for both individuals and verifying parties, especially when dealing with large volumes of documents.

  3. The reliance on manual processes and paper-based systems makes it difficult to track and update credentials accurately, leading to delays and inaccuracies in credential management. 

  4. The lack of portability restricts individuals from conveniently sharing their credentials with relevant parties, such as employers or educational institutions, especially when physical presence is required.

How Digital Credentials Solve These Problems.

Digital credentials provide a solution to the challenges associated with physical credentials by leveraging advanced digital technologies. With digital credentials, the limitations of physical documents are overcome.

Security & Integrity:

The digital format ensures the security and integrity of credentials, as they can be protected through encryption and cryptographic techniques. This significantly reduces the risk of fraud, loss, or damage. 

Fast and Easy:

Digital credentials can be easily verified in real-time using automated processes, eliminating the need for manual verification and reducing administrative burdens. Additionally, digital credentials enable efficient credential management through secure databases or decentralized systems, allowing for easy updates, tracking, and revocation when necessary.

Portability:

Lastly, digital credentials offer enhanced portability, as individuals can securely share their credentials electronically, enabling faster and more convenient verification processes, even in remote or online environments.

Exploring Verifiable Credentials (VC / VCS)

What is a Verifiable Credential.png

Verifiable credentials are cryptographically verifiable, trustworthy digital representations of people or organisations. These decentralised, tamper-proof documents ease identity verification and boost digital trust.

What is a Verifiable Credential (VC / VCS)?

A Verifiable Credential (VC) is a digital representation of a piece of information or claim about an individual or entity that has been issued and signed by a trusted issuer. It is a secure and tamper-proof digital record that can be presented and verified in a decentralized manner. Verifiable credentials are designed to provide proof of certain attributes or qualifications without revealing unnecessary personal information. A verifiable credential typically consists of three main components: the issuer, the holder, and the verifier. 

Verifiable credentials use cryptographic techniques, like digital signatures, to make sure that the information they carry is correct and real. They can be kept and managed in digital wallets application or repositories. This gives each person control over their own credentials and lets them choose when to share them. Verifiable credentials offer a private and secure way to check claims, make it easier to prove your identity, and increase trust in digital interactions.

What is DICE ID and How DICE ID is implementing Verifiable Credentials

DICE ID is a blockchain based platform that allows organizations to issue and verify digital credentials. DICE ID leverages the verifiable credentials technology which is aligned to W3C.

Verifiable credential can be issued to the end user/holder by DICE ID Issuer platform. To issue credential, DICE ID issuer platform provides the functionality to create Schema, establish communication link and send Credential offer to the end user. DICE ID also provides the functionality to verify Verifiable credentials. To verify:

  1. Verifier requests holder to present certain information, called presentation proof

  2. Holder presents the information

  3. Verifier verifies the proof using cryptographic material

Concepts of Verifiable Credentials

Verifiable credentials improve data privacy and trust model in interactions through selective disclosure and zero-knowledge proof. Zero-knowledge proof verifies claims without revealing personal information, while selective disclosure lets people choose which claims to disclose. Digital ecosystem security and trust are improved by these concepts.

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Selective Disclosure in Verifiable Credentials:  Empowering Data Privacy and Control

Selective disclosure is a fundamental concept in verifiable credentials that empowers individuals with control over their personal data. With selective disclosure, individuals have the ability to choose which specific claims or pieces of information they share from their verifiable credentials on a case-by-case basis. This allows them to provide only the necessary information required for a particular transaction or interaction, while keeping other sensitive data private.

Selective disclosure enhances data privacy and minimizes the risk of unnecessary exposure of personal information, giving individuals greater control over their digital identities. It enables a more granular and context-aware approach to sharing credentials, ensuring privacy without compromising the utility or functionality of the credentials.

Zero-Knowledge Proof in Verifiable Credentials:  Enhancing Security and Trust

Zero-knowledge proof is a cryptographic concept that plays a crucial role in verifiable credentials, enhancing security and trust in digital interactions. In the context of verifiable credentials, zero-knowledge proofs allow the credential holder to prove the validity of certain claims without revealing the actual underlying data. This means that an individual can demonstrate the authenticity of a claim, such as being of legal drinking age, without disclosing their exact date of birth.

Zero-knowledge proofs provide a powerful mechanism for privacy-preserving verification, as they ensure that individuals can prove specific attributes or qualifications without divulging unnecessary personal details. By leveraging zero-knowledge proof techniques, verifiable credentials strengthen security, protect sensitive information, and foster trust in the digital ecosystem.

Benefits and Use cases of Verifiable Credentials

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Verifiable credentials protect personal data and identity. They are tamper-resistant, interoperable, and simplify identification verification. These credentials can improve trust, privacy, and verification in various industries such as education, healthcare, recruitment, and e-Governance.

Benefits of Verifiable Credentials

Verifiable credentials offer several key benefits that unlock advantages in various domains.

  1. They enhance privacy and data control by allowing individuals to selectively disclose information, reducing the risk of identity theft and unauthorized access to personal data.

  2. Secondly, verifiable credentials streamline and simplify identity verification processes, saving time and resources for both individuals and organizations. They eliminate the need for manual verification of paper-based documents, enabling efficient and automated verification procedures.

  3. Additionally, verifiable credentials promote interoperability by providing a standardized format that can be recognized and verified across different platforms and systems. This fosters seamless integration and data exchange between organizations.

  4. Furthermore, the tamper-resistant nature of verifiable credentials, enabled by technologies like blockchain, ensures the integrity and immutability of the information they carry. This strengthens trust and reduces the risk of fraudulent activities.

Overall, verifiable credentials empower individuals, enhance efficiency, bolster security, and facilitate trusted digital interactions.

Real-World Applications and Transformative Potential of Verifiable Credentials

Verifiable credentials have transformative potential across various industries. Here are some of the verifiable credentials use cases

 

EdTech:

In the education field, they can change how degrees, certifications, and diplomas are given, kept, and checked. Verifiable credentials make it possible to check someone's education right away and in a way that can't be changed. This makes it easier for schools to let people in and makes it easier for graduates to get jobs.

 

Healthcare:

In the healthcare industry, credentials that can be checked can make it easier for people to share medical records. This gives people safe and private access to patient information, improves healthcare coordination, and makes sure that people get accurate and quick care. 

 

Recruitment:

Verifiable credentials are also used for employment verification, professional certifications, and licences. This lets a person's qualifications be checked quickly and accurately during the hiring process.

 

e-Governance:

Also, they can be used for secure digital identity solutions, which make it easier and safer for people to use government services, access financial services, and vote online.

The potential of verifiable credentials extends to various other domains, including supply chain management, digital payments, access control, and more, where trust, privacy, and efficient verification are paramount.

Verifiable Credentials & Decentralized Identity

Verifiable credentials and decentralised identifiers (DID) give people authority over their digital identities, revolutionising digital identity management. DIDs with URI schemes and method-specific identifiers enable trust and digital identity management. Self-sovereign identification (SSI) empowers individuals to control their personal data, improves privacy, and enables secure, user-centric digital interactions.

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Exploring Decentralized Identity and its Relationship with Verifiable Credentials:

DID is Decentralized identifier. DID is specified as a string that contains the URI scheme, DID method, and DID method-specific identifier. An organisation with a valid DID is only allowed to write to the ledger. If the DID of an organisation is known, then the DID document can be downloaded for that organisation. The DID document contains the cryptographic material and other metadata for managing the DID, such as the public key for a specific organisation, etc.

DID and verifiable credentials are closely intertwined concepts that revolutionise the way identity is managed in the digital realm. Verifiable credentials refer to a framework where individuals have control over their own digital identities, eliminating the need for central authorities or intermediaries to manage and validate identity information.

Together, DID and verifiable credentials empower individuals with ownership and control over their digital identities, enabling seamless and trusted interactions in the digital world.

Self-sovereign Identity: Putting Individuals in Control

Self-sovereign identity (SSI) is a concept closely aligned with verifiable credentials, emphasizing the individual's right to control and manage their own digital identity. Verifiable credentials play a crucial role in SSI by enabling individuals to possess and present their own credentials without relying on centralized identity providers.

With SSI verifiable credentials, individuals have the freedom to choose which verifiable credentials to create, share, and revoke. They can selectively disclose information and establish trust through cryptographic proofs, ensuring privacy and minimizing the risks associated with traditional identity systems. SSI verifiable credentials empower individuals by giving them full agency over their personal data, enhancing privacy, and enabling more secure and user-centric digital interactions.

Understanding the Distinctions, Synergies of DID and Verifiable Credentials:

Decentralized identifiers (DIDs) and verifiable credentials are distinct but complementary components within the realm of decentralized digital identity.

DIDs serve as unique identifiers anchored in decentralized systems, such as blockchain, allowing individuals to have independent and globally resolvable identities. Verifiable credentials, on the other hand, are the digitally signed data structures that contain claims about a specific identity. While DIDs provide the foundational layer for decentralized identity, verifiable credentials utilize DIDs to establish trust and provide portable, tamper-resistant, and privacy-preserving credentials. DIDs provide the mechanism for linking and resolving verifiable credentials to specific individuals or entities. The synergy between DIDs and verifiable credentials enables the creation of a self-sovereign identity ecosystem, where individuals can control their digital identities, issue and manage verifiable credentials, and selectively share them as needed.

The Verifiable Credentials Ecosystem - Issuer, Holder and Verifier

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Verifiable credentials are essential for fostering trust and ensuring data integrity in digital interactions. Verifiers, issuers, and holders make up the ecosystem. The issuer verifies legitimacy and the holder secures their digital identity and credentials. Following guidelines, verifiers check credentials.

How Verifiable Credentials Can Help Build a Society with Trust:

Verifiable credentials are a key part of building a society based on trust because they help solve problems like verifying identity and making sure data is correct. Verifiable credentials offer a number of ways to build trust in digital interactions by using cryptography and decentralised technologies. Verifiable credentials help create a society where people have more control over their digital identities, organisations can check claims with confidence, and interactions are more private, secure, and efficient. This trust-building feature of verifiable credentials has the potential to change many areas, such as finance, healthcare, education, employment, and government services, making the digital world a safer and more welcoming place for everyone.

Key players in Verifiable Credentials Ecosystem

Verifiable credential ecosystems are made up of three main parts: the Verifiable Credential Issuer, the Verifiable Credential Holder, and the Verifiable Credentials Verifier. The person or group that gives out the credential is called the issuer. The person who is given the credential is called the Holder. Lastly, the Verifiers have the power to make sure that the claims made in the credential are true.

Verifiable Credentials Issuer:

The verifiable credentials issuer is the entity or organization responsible for issuing the credentials to individuals. The issuer holds the authority to verify the claims made within the credentials and digitally signs them using cryptographic techniques. The role of the issuer is crucial in establishing the trustworthiness and authenticity of the credentials. It is important for issuers to follow established guidelines and best practices for issuing credentials, ensuring the accuracy of the claims and the integrity of the overall process.

Verifiable Credentials Holder:

The verifiable credentials holder refers to the individual who possesses and controls the verifiable credentials. The holder plays a vital role in managing their own digital identity and deciding when and with whom to share their credentials. It is important for credential holders to use secure wallets or digital applications to store and manage their credentials, safeguarding their privacy and ensuring the selective disclosure of information. The holder should also be mindful of the security of their credentials, protecting them from unauthorized access or loss.

 

Verifiable Credentials Verifier:

The verifiable credentials verifier is the entity or organization that relies on the verifiable credentials to verify the claims made by the holder. Verifiers play a crucial role in the ecosystem as they need to ensure the authenticity and validity of the presented credentials. Verifiers should follow established guidelines for verifying credentials, including validating the digital signatures, verifying the issuer's integrity, and checking

Components of DICE ID for Ecosystem Participants

Issuer / Verifier Portal:

This will provide ability for issuer and verifier organizations to get onboarded, setup role based access and monitoring capabilities. Organizations onboarded to DICE platform as either issuer or verifier will leverage the web-based portal to manage the credential schema, definitions, proof requests and associated workflows. The portal will also provide a dashboard and reports to track the issued, verified and revoked credentials.

 

Identity Holder Mobile App:

Individuals, entities and devices that need self-sovereign identity features and credentials need to use the mobile application that provides wallet functionality for secure communication and locally maintaining the credentials which can be shared based on user's consent.

 

OIDC Verifier Application:

Identity Verifiers can leverage Open ID Connect based approach to request for proof and verify credentials presented by Identity holders, for which a web application with configurable verification templates is available.

An In-depth look at the Blockchain, Wallet and Schema for VCS

Blockchain's decentralised, tamper-resistant infrastructure improves verifiable credentials' security, transparency, and reliability. Transactions or data records store verifiable credentials, limiting fraud and data manipulation. Schemas allow blockchain-based wallets to securely store, manage, and present credentials. These wallets let users selectively share information and generate cryptographic proofs to verify their credentials.

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Leveraging blockchain for verifiable credentials

Blockchain technology can be leveraged to enhance the security, transparency, and trustworthiness of verifiable credentials. Blockchain provides a decentralized and tamper-resistant infrastructure that ensures the integrity and immutability of the data stored within verifiable credentials. By utilizing blockchain, verifiable credentials can be securely issued, stored, and verified without the need for a central authority or intermediary.

When verifiable credentials are stored on a blockchain, each credential is typically represented as a transaction or a data record. The decentralized nature of the blockchain ensures that no single entity has control over the entire system, enhancing security and reducing the risk of fraud or data manipulation. Additionally, the use of cryptographic techniques, such as digital signatures and hash functions, allows for the verification of the authenticity and integrity of the credentials.

By leveraging blockchain for verifiable credentials, individuals and organizations can have confidence in the integrity and security of the credentials, as they are stored in a transparent and tamper-resistant manner. This ensures that the credentials can be reliably verified by authorized parties, enhancing trust in the digital ecosystem.

Verifiable Credentials Schema

Verifiable credentials follow a specific schema that defines their structure and components.

Schema is a data structure which represents the type of credential that can be created and issued. The schema definition is flexible and can have any number of attributes based on the use case requirements. The identity issuer is allowed to create schemas which can be reused by other issuers in the ecosystem. The schema is the building block for credential definition which is created by a particular identity issuer. Schemas can also be used to create verification templates which are used for identity verification.

Digital Wallet in the Context of Blockchain-based Verifiable Credentials

In the context of blockchain-based verifiable credentials, a wallet refers to a digital application or software that allows individuals to securely store, manage, and present their verifiable credentials. These wallets provide individuals with control over their own credentials and enable them to selectively disclose the necessary information when interacting with verifiers.

Blockchain-based wallets for verifiable credentials typically utilize cryptographic techniques to ensure the security and privacy of the stored credentials. They provide a user-friendly interface for individuals to manage their credentials, including the ability to receive, store, and organize verifiable credentials issued by various issuers. Additionally, wallets enable individuals to control the sharing of their credentials by allowing them to present specific claims or attributes from their credentials to verifiers, thereby protecting their privacy.

The wallets also facilitate the verification process by generating cryptographic proofs that demonstrate the authenticity and validity of the presented credentials. These proofs can be generated without revealing the underlying sensitive information, further enhancing privacy and security.

W3C Verifiable Credential Data models and Open Source Specifications

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W3C-developed Verifiable Credentials data formats standardise the representation and exchange of verifiable credentials. These models ensure consistency, stability, and compatibility in the verifiable credential ecosystem, facilitating data flow between organisations and platforms. Open source software helps secure and innovate verifiable credentials technology.

Verifiable Credentials and W3C: Advancing Standards for Digital Trust

Data Models:

Verifiable Credentials data models refer to the standardized structures and formats used to represent and exchange verifiable credentials in a consistent and interoperable manner. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has played a pivotal role in advancing the development of these data models.

The W3C's Verifiable Credentials Data Model specification defines a set of data types, JSON-LD contexts, and vocabulary terms that provide a common framework for expressing verifiable credentials. This standardization ensures that verifiable credentials can be understood and processed by different systems, enabling seamless interoperability and data exchange between organizations and platforms. The data models defined by the W3C promote consistency, reliability, and compatibility in the verifiable credential ecosystem, facilitating the adoption and implementation of this technology across various domains.

Open Source:

The concept of open source software plays a significant role in the development and advancement of verifiable credentials. By embracing open source principles, the verifiable credentials community can collaboratively advance the technology, address security vulnerabilities, and drive innovation in the field. Open source initiatives create a vibrant ecosystem that promotes transparency, trust, and the continuous improvement of verifiable credentials technology. 

Implementation of W3C Standards in DICE ID

As per W3C standard, a verifiable credential is a tamper-evident credential that has authorship that can be cryptographically verified. Verifiable credentials can be used to build verifiable presentations, which can also be cryptographically verified.

 

 

DICE ID platform provides all the participants, Issuer, Verifier unique DID. DICE ID issuer can issue verifiable credential to the holder. This credential can’t be tampered by the Holder as it is cryptographically encrypted. DICE ID Verifier will not verify the credentials if tampered as cryptographic proof will fail while verifying. Also blinded link secret will ensure that the credential was issued to the holder.

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