How does Timescribe use Blockchain?

Timestamping refers to the process of providing proof that a file existed on a specific time and dates. Timestamps cannot be altered and are accurate for the time of creation of the timestamp. Furthermore, it must be identifiable to a specific user that created the timestamp.

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Timescribe utilises the power of blockchain technologies to provide an immutable time stamp for any user data, file or document. Blockchain technologies have the advantage of being immutable, meaning that once data is added to the blockchain it cannot be removed, edited or manipulated by any party.

Timescribe uses three different elements to create a unique, immutable and trustworthy time stamp:

  • The Blockchain – Timescribe uses the Ethereum blockchain to record and timestamp data.
  • Hashing Algorithms – Used to provide a tamper proof digest of the original file to be added to the blockchain. 
  • Digital Signatures – Provides unforgeable proof that the user is, in fact, the one who created the timestamp.
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Using these three elements a proof can be created. This proof will allow the user to demonstrate that they produced a timestamp of the file at a specific date and time. The timestamp will also be directly attributable to the user that created it. Furthermore, an immutable record of the file will be held on the Ethereum blockchain.

Blockchain technologies provide an immutable record of all data that is added to it in the form of transactions. These transactions are integrated into blocks which form an intrinsically linked order of events. Each block added to blockchain is immutably linked to the preceding block. This means that no element of the blockchain can be changed, removed or manipulated without the consent of more than 50% of the network. The blockchain provides the evidence of time i.e. the time stamp. Each proof created will be broadcast to the blockchain users as a transaction. Miners who conglomerate the transactions to create blocks will take the transaction that is broadcast and integrate it into the next block of the blockchain. This block contains a highly accurate date and time. This time is accurate due to requirements placed on the miners; miners are required to be in sync with the rest of the network in order to successfully append a block to the chain. The internal clock of a miner who successfully builds a block must be within a certain range of other peers on the network otherwise the proposed block will not be accepted (generally no more than 14 second, although usually significantly less). Once a block is added to the blockchain this time is immutably stored and can never be changed or removed. This means that the timestamp is available forever and you can have full confidence that this time is accurate and has not been manipulated in any way.

During the Timescribe process, the file or document itself is not timestamped; it is the proof of the file or document that is timestamped, meaning that the file is not moved, changed or altered in any way. This proof is sent as a transaction on the blockchain and the file information is sent as a hash digest. Hashing algorithms receive an input and output a digest that is unique to the input. The digest will always take the form of a uniform length 256 bits.

Hashing algorithms are one-way functions, meaning that creating a digest from an input is trivial, while deducing the input from the digest is impossible in well-constructed hash functions. The digest can be considered a unique identifier for the file that is timestamped and the only way to create this hash is to have access to the file in question. This unique hash digest cannot be replicated or reversed, meaning that all files that are timestamped can be verified by hashing the original file.

Identity and proof that a user owns a time stamp is provided by a user generated signature. This signature is generated using a public / private key pair. Timescribe uses elliptic curve cryptography for the generation of this public private key pair where is the public key and is the private key with being the generator of the elliptic curve. More specifically the elliptic curve that is used by Timescribe is the secp-256k1 curve.

From this public private, we use the ECDSA algorithm to generate the signature attached to the transaction. This signature is verifiable as only a user that hold the private key could have created the signature and it is verified through the public key This signature is unique to the timestamp created as the signature is created from the private key and the timestamp message.

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The advantage of using blockchain technology, instead of a time stamping authority or other previous timestamping tools, is that the proof is verifiably imputable, auditable and persistent. The time declared by the timestamp is verifiable and cannot be changed or edited later. It is persistent as the proof will remain with or without the Timescribe once the proof has been created and broadcast to the blockchain. By using blockchain, the need to trust in a central authority is removed, while the Timescribe web app is used to create the timestamp, after its creation the proof created cannot be changed, even by Timescribe.

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