Secret contracts are a type of smart contract for public blockchains that use cryptographic tricks to keep transaction data hidden from view. Enigma – a startup that grew out of efforts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with the goal of creating a more private platform for decentralized applications – wants to boost their privacy by incorporating Intel’s Software Guard Extensions (SGX), a move slated for the second half of 2018.
An Enigma spokesperson said :
“Privacy is currently the biggest barrier to smart contract adoption. Blockchains are good at correctness, but bad at privacy by design. Smart contracts and decentralized applications will need to be able to use private and sensitive data to see global adoption.”
Enigma plans to work with Intel and other industry partners to develop applications that support the protocol and SGX, later this year launching a proof-of-concept that showcases the potential of combining the two technologies.
Both teams are also conducting R&D; into trusted execution environments (TEEs), which are an integral part of Intel’s SGX technology that securitizes data and code. Specifically, TEEs refer to space on a device’s main processor that is separate from its operating system and is responsible for storing and protecting data in a secure environment. In this regard, Intel and Enigma’s goal is to create “production-level software that can be used at scale.”
The collaboration is a timely one, given that high-stakes attacks have already taken place. The most prominent of these is perhaps the DAO hack in 2016, where 3.6 million ether, valued at around $50 million at the time, was stolen from the decentralized and autonomous venture capital fund as a result of vulnerabilities in a smart contract.
In an April Medium post, Enigma CEO Guy Zyskind highlighted the need for secret contracts given the issues affecting other forms of privacy tech. These include problems with coin-mixing and zero-knowledge proofs, the latter of which he said are particularly vulnerable in multi-party cases where several “untrusted and pseudonymous” parties are executing computations.
Therefore, Zyskind said, secret contracts provide the “missing piece” by executing computations using encrypted data that stays hidden from network nodes.
Looking further ahead, Enigma will also be launching its testnet and mainnet – a fully functioning, live network– in Q1 and Q2 of 2018, respectively, according to its roadmap.