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ACCENTURE INTEGRATES BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY WITH THALES HARDWARE SECURITY MODULE TO ADDRESS KEY RISKS FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES, GOVERNMENT, HEALTHCARE AND OTHER SECTORS

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ACCENTURE INTEGRATES BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY WITH THALES HARDWARE SECURITY MODULE TO ADDRESS KEY RISKS FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES, GOVERNMENT, HEALTHCARE AND OTHER SECTORS

Accenture debuts Hardware-Based Security solution to simplify and enable blockchain security for large-scale enterprise IT use

 Accenture (NYSE:ACN) has unveiled a patent-pending solution that simplifies the ability of blockchain technology to integrate with the industrial-grade security systems that support sectors including financial services, healthcare and government. The solution creates a developer-friendly interface between emerging blockchain platforms and widely used hardware security technology. Accenture cooperated with Thales — whose hardware is currently used by most major banks globally to secure records and assets from cyber theft — to develop the solution.

Hardware security modules (HSMs) are crypto-processors that securely generate, protect and store digital keys. Keys stored in the Thales HSM architecture cannot be extracted or used except under a highly controlled protocol. The new solution is based on the widely used nShield HSM developed by Thales and creates a simple path to large-scale commercial use of blockchain technology.

“Blockchain is quickly maturing across industries and is set to profoundly change how businesses operate,” said Simon Whitehouse, senior managing director and head of blockchain technologies at Accenture. “But current applications cannot meet the high security standards of most mission-critical IT infrastructure. That is because the digital keys used to secure and validate messages and transactions historically have proven vulnerable to network attacks. Our solution provides the same kind of physical security that banks have relied on for decades to keep money and transaction records safe from cyber thieves. It will clear a wider path not only for banks but for governments, insurers, healthcare providers and others to do real-world deployments of blockchain technology.”

Currently, blockchain-based systems typically rely on “cyber wallets” to store digital keys for blockchains. But because those keys typically reside on software servers, they can become vulnerable to network breaches of the kind that have occurred on cryptocurrency exchanges in recent years. The solution makes it extremely difficult if not impossible for digital keys to be misappropriated because they are stored in physical isolation from IT networks and are architected with highly sophisticated, deterministic security mechanisms. In addition, the platform need only be installed once, allowing companies to secure each of their blockchain applications using the same solution—regardless of which blockchain software or application they use—versus crafting a code interface for each solution.

Jon Geater, Chief Technology Officer at Thales e-Security said, “The possibilities for blockchain are endless. In the financial sector everything from transactions to contracts and deeds could use a blockchain to legitimize and simplify the settlement process, and industries such as healthcare and federal government also stand to benefit from this technology. However, in order for blockchains to work, we need to believe and trust them, which means every participant must agree and anticipate how they will take part in the chain. Unfortunately innovation and vulnerability very often go hand-in-hand. Accenture has built trust and security into the technology of the chain itself, using Thales HSMs to protect the chain and prevent any nefarious activity. Thales continues to invest in blockchain delivering the ‘root of trust’ to this emerging technology.”

“The opportunity to benefit from blockchain technology within sectors like financial services and healthcare depends on an ability to protect digital keys using conventional standards of security,” said David Treat, managing director, financial services blockchain lead at Accenture. “While there have been bespoke blockchain integrations with HSMs before, this solution offers a simpler and more flexible standard to connect blockchain platforms with the leading HSMs. We are committed to delivering these types of real-world innovations that will serve as the stepping stones to make blockchain technology a reality for large-scale enterprises.”

The solution used Fabric, a Hyperledger technology and can be adapted for other leading blockchain technology platforms. Hyperledger is a global, open-source collaborative effort of more than 100 major companies focused on advancing cross-industry blockchain technologies.

Solution highlights

Many security-conscious institutions rely on HSMs to safeguard and manage their digital keys and protect things like ATM machines, mainframe operations, point-of-sale (POS) machines and to verify and sign SWIFT messages – they are used in virtually any application that requires secure, verified digital signatures. While most people have no idea of the role of an HSM in securing sensitive information, it’s a technology used every day. For example, HSMs in a bank’s data center are used to validate your PIN when you withdraw cash from an ATM, or validate the transaction cryptogram when your purchase goods at a merchant POS terminal – in both cases only the HSMs under the bank’s control have access to the correct keys to perform the secure processing. Some of the benefits of an HSM include:

  • Keys are stored within secure HSM boundary: the keys always live inside the secure, certified HSM boundary vs. in software or on a hard drive where they are vulnerable to attacks.
  • Tamper–resistant hardware: FIPS 140-2 Level 2 and 3 certified HSMs are tested to stringent standards and are extremely difficult to access by unauthorized users.
  • Sophisticated cryptography: HSMs use a certified, cryptographically secure random number generator to create keys, providing superior quality keys than a typical computer system.

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Bitcoin, ether hit fresh highs

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Bitcoin, ether hit fresh highs 1

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Bitcoin hit a fresh high in Asian trading on Saturday, extending a two-month rally that saw its market capitalisation cross $1 trillion a day earlier.

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency rose to an record $56,620, taking its weekly gain to 18%. It has surged more than 92% this year.

Bitcoin’s gains have been fuelled by evidence it is gaining acceptance among mainstream investors and companies, such as Tesla Inc, Mastercard Inc and BNY Mellon.

Ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization and daily volume, hit a record $2,040.62, for a weekly gain of about 12%.

Ether is the digital currency or token that facilitates transactions on the ethereum blockchain. In the crypto world, the terms ether and ethereum have become interchangeable.

Ether futures contracts launched on derivatives exchange CME earlier this month.

(Reporting by Vidya Ranganathan; Editing by William Mallard)

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World Bank pushing for standard vaccine contracts, more disclosure from makers

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World Bank pushing for standard vaccine contracts, more disclosure from makers 2

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The World Bank is working to standardize COVID-19 vaccine contracts that countries are signing with drug makers, and is pushing manufacturers to be more open about where doses are headed, as it races to get more vaccines to poor countries, the bank’s president said on Friday.

World Bank President David Malpass told Reuters he expected the bank’s board to have approved $1.6 billion in vaccine funding for 12 countries, including the Philippines, Bangladesh, Tunisia and Ethiopia, by the end of March, with 30 more to follow shortly thereafter.

The bank is working with local governments to identify and fill gaps in distribution capacity, after they purchase vaccines under a $12 billion World Bank program, and also to standardize the contracts they are signing with manufacturers, he said.

The bank’s International Finance Corp, its private financing arm, has $4 billion to invest in expanding existing production plants or building new ones, including in developed countries, but needs more data on where current production is headed, he said.

“We are eager to be investing in new capacity, but it’s hard to do because you don’t know how much of the existing capacity is already committed to the various off-takers,” Malpass said in an interview with Reuters. New or expanded plants could be used to produce other types of vaccinations in the future, he said.

The bank’s funds could be used to expand plants in advanced economies, if the production was earmarked for developing nations, he said.

Malpass welcomed Friday’s pledge by the Group of Seven rich countries to intensify cooperation on the pandemic, saying it could help jump-start deliveries of vaccines to poorer countries, which are lagging far behind rich countries in getting shots in arms.

Data compiled by Our World In Data, a scientific online publication, showed Israel was leading the world in COVID-19 vaccinations, with nearly 82 of 100 people vaccinated, while India and Bangladesh reported less than one person per 100, Many African countries have not started at all.

Malpass said he was heartened by news about new vaccines coming down the road, and about Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE seeking permission to store their vaccine at higher temperatures, which would ease another obstacle to deliveries in lower-income countries.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Heather Timmons and Leslie Adler)

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Google to evaluate executive performance on diversity, inclusion

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Google to evaluate executive performance on diversity, inclusion 3

By Paresh Dave

(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google will evaluate the performance of its vice presidents and above on team diversity and inclusion starting this year, the company said on Friday in one of several responses to concerns about its treatment of a Black scientist.

Timnit Gebru, co-leader of Google’s ethical artificial intelligence research team, said in December that Google abruptly fired her after she criticized its diversity efforts and threatened to resign.

Alphabet and Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai ordered a review of the situation. While Google declined to share specific findings, the company announced on Friday it will engage human resources specialists during sensitive employee departures.

Pichai in June said that by 2025, Google aims to have 30% more of its leaders come from underrepresented groups, with a focus on Black, Latinx and Native American leaders in the United States and female technical leaders globally. About 96% of Google’s U.S. leaders at the time were white or Asian, and 73% globally were men.

As a result of the investigation, the company also expanded a commitment announced in June to devote more resources to retaining and promoting existing employees, including by expanding a team addressing disputes among workers and their managers.

The diversity component of executive performance reviews was not previously announced, and the company did not immediately share details about what would be measured and how pay would be affected.

Alphabet for years had rejected proposals from shareholders and employees to set diversity goals and tie executive pay to them.

Irene Knapp, a former Google employee who advocated for one such proposal at a 2018 shareholder meeting, said on Friday, “I am pleased that they met our demand from 2018, which was a bare minimum that should have been easy to do immediately.”

Evaluating managers on diversity goals is becoming more commonplace. McDonald’s Corp on Thursday tied executive bonuses to diversity.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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