Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Almighty Buck Bitcoin Businesses Cloud Databases Patents

Accenture Patents a Blockchain-Editing Tool (techweekeurope.co.uk) 87

A blockchain "produces a permanent ledger of transactions with which no one can tamper," reports TechWeekEurope. "Until now." Slashdot reader Mickeycaskill quotes their report: One of the core principles of Blockchain technology has potentially been undermined by the creation of an editing tool. The company responsible however, Accenture, says edits would only be carried out "under extraordinary circumstances to resolve human errors, accommodate legal and regulatory requirements, and address mischief and other issues, while preserving key cryptographic features..."

Accenture's move to create an editing system will no doubt be viewed by some technology observers as a betrayal of what blockchain technology is all about. But the company insisted it is needed, especially in the financial services industry... "The prototype represents a significant breakthrough for enterprise uses of blockchain technology particularly in banking, insurance and capital markets," said Accenture.

They're envisioning "permissioned" blockchain systems, "managed by designated administrators under agreed governance rules," while acknowledging that cyptocurrency remains a different environment where "immutable" record-keeping would still be essential.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Accenture Patents a Blockchain-Editing Tool

Comments Filter:
  • by ninthbit ( 623926 ) on Saturday September 24, 2016 @12:39PM (#52953649)

    All I read here, is that finance can't use a system that is 100% accountable. They need a way to create scape goats and reverse bad decisions.

    • by ls671 ( 1122017 ) on Saturday September 24, 2016 @12:43PM (#52953665) Homepage

      I read: we require a backdoor into everything...

      Come on, ledgers are never edited, correction transactions are written when a mistake happens.

      • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Saturday September 24, 2016 @12:50PM (#52953689) Journal

        It's interesting, but some of the earliest accounting software I used, which was COBOL-based, didn't allow you to change any ledger once a month was posted and closed. I suppose it was possible to go into the actual database and directly alter records, but the underlying concept was that once a fiscal period was complete, it was inviolate, and the only way you could alter any closed ledger was to post adjusting entries in this period. This could be rather ugly, so you tried really hard not to do any major mistakes. Even end of the year adjusting entries were posted in the next fiscal year.

        Since then I've seen a number of accounting systems that allow all sorts of monkeying around, including posting adjusting entries for a fiscal year within that fiscal year, even though you may be a couple of months into the current fiscal year. It seems common practice now, but a quarter of a century ago that was viewed as completely inappropriate, as it opened the door for fraud.

        • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

          Since then I've seen a number of accounting systems that allow all sorts of monkeying around, including posting adjusting entries for a fiscal year within that fiscal year, even though you may be a couple of months into the current fiscal year. It seems common practice now, but a quarter of a century ago that was viewed as completely inappropriate, as it opened the door for fraud.

          Thanks for updating me to 2016, amazing!

          Of course, as another poster has mentioned, it is always possible to restore from backup or whatever to fool the system around but the only thing I knew about was what I described first.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Saturday September 24, 2016 @02:00PM (#52953929)

        Come on, ledgers are never edited, correction transactions are written when a mistake happens.

        Ledgers are "corrected" all the time. In theory, that should never happen, but there are plenty of ways to fudge. Some accounting systems, including Quickbooks, have an "owner" mode that allows anyone with a special password to modify and backdate transactions. This is one reason Quickbooks is so popular.

        Another possibility is to restore from backup, and re-enter the transactions, leaving out or modifying the troublesome entry. If the software doesn't allow you to enter an arbitrary date, then just set the system date & time between transactions as you enter them. You can download scripts to automate this.

        And, of course, there is the classic solution of keeping two sets of books: one ledger for internal accounting, and a separate ledger for the tax man.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Unless, of course, you want to make it easy to cook the books. At one time, bankers and accountants understood that even the slioghtest whiff of impropriety was a problem even if you actually weren't actually doing anything wrong. Today, they're all YOLO.

    • by SvnLyrBrto ( 62138 ) on Saturday September 24, 2016 @02:33PM (#52954073)

      Remember who "Accenture" really is: the post-scandal-renamed Andersen Consulting, aka: Arthur Andersen. Accounting fraud is their very purpose for existing. And corrupting blockchains to destroy accountability is exactly the sort of thing you expect out of those people.

      • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Saturday September 24, 2016 @04:19PM (#52954449)

        It defeats the purpose of having a blockchain if you can change it retrospectively.
        It's not a blockchain if you can "edit" it.

        • I'm not really knowledgeable in the subject, but I wonder if it's even possible at all. Isn't a blockchain exactly there to not be tampered with? Isn't it a distributed system? So "editing" a former block would require you to "edit" it in all distributed systems, changing the hash, and would require all following blocks to be re-edited and re-hashed as well.
          • by mspohr ( 589790 )

            Yes, you're right. That's what Accenture is proposing. They can do this since it is a "private" blockchain and they control all copies. After an edit, they'll need to recompute everything and they can do this since they own all copies.
            Kind of defeats the purpose of the blockchain.

    • The reality with financial transactions is some decisions are actually reversed or rolled back. What do you do when your ledger says a transaction occurred that actually didn't occur? I am not sure editing is right solution, but neither is simply putting in a second transaction crediting the money back as now you have 2 transactions that didn't occur in your ledger.
      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        The reality with financial transactions is some decisions are actually reversed or rolled back. What do you do when your ledger says a transaction occurred that actually didn't occur?

        If it's in a blockchain, and it pertains to a cryptocurrency exchange, then it DID occur, because the thing in the Blockchain IS the transaction.

        If it's something else, then you establish rules that let you create a New entry which will be recorded As If it was an edit, BUT it is not an "In place" edit; it's a new recor

    • by jcr ( 53032 )

      "Accenture" is Andersen Consulting under a stupid-sounding name to try to avoid the stench of the Enron scandal. As an organization, they have always been devoid of any ethical qualms, and they should be ignored.

      -jcr

  • In other words (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Saturday September 24, 2016 @12:45PM (#52953675)

    "permissioned" blockchain systems,"

    "managed by designated administrators under agreed governance rules,"

    In other words: They are doing something completely different, but still call it "blockchain" because that's the current buzzword.

    Reminds be a bit of what "cloud" should have stood for until it became a generic moniker for simple online storage.

    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      In other words: They are doing something completely different, but still call it "blockchain" because that's the current buzzword.

      A blockchain with limited participants is still a blockchain. It's as trustworthy as those participants. If the participants all trust one another, or trust the system to protect them from the others, it serves its purpose, even if they are in fact pathologically lying shitsacks like financial companies.

      I'm dubious of the "editing", but if it's really just new records that say "this record replaces record XYZ", i.e., it's still write-only except by convention, that's fine too.

      Reminds be a bit of what "cloud" should have stood for until it became a generic moniker for simple online storage.

      Not sure what you mean here.

      • by mspohr ( 589790 )

        New records to correct mistakes are just fine.
        Going back and editing the blockchain is fraud. Anderson/Accenture know all about fraud so I can see why they want this.
        No, I don't trust them or anyone. That is why we have the blockchain.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        A blockchain with limited participants is still a blockchain. It's as trustworthy as those participants.

        If your system allows you to go back to earlier blocks and "Edit data in-place", and replace a prior block completely with no record of the original version, Then it's not a real Block chain, because the verification signatures on later blocks for validating the entire chain don't exist or aren't being checked --- which makes it not a chain, taking the word "Chain" out of the word "blockchain".

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          Wow, not reading TFA is expected, not reading TFS is common, but not reading the post you reply to?

          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            Wow, not reading TFA is expected, not reading TFS is common

            I read the article. The technology utilizes a "chameleon" hashing algorithm that allows deleting a prior block and
            substituting a new one in place.

            No evidence is left behind of what the original block actually was, thus "History is lost".

            The only interesting artifact is the system leaves behind a "tear" which can be seen.

            Nonetheless, the network allows such tear. And thus, past the point of no return.... you essentially have users authorized to

    • Wait till Mr. Robot becomes an editor. Oh don't worry about that friend, you see we hired Allsafe to keep it secure. (Alf walks by the background).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Basically, they invented a backdoor for bitcoin-like protocols. And then they patented it, so you can't put a backdoor in your bitcoin-like protocol unless you pay them some money!

  • Signed patches (Score:5, Informative)

    by John Allsup ( 987 ) <moostyle,martial ... dancer&allsup,co> on Saturday September 24, 2016 @01:11PM (#52953737) Homepage Journal

    So basically they've taken a bitcoin like distributed ledger, restricted who can do the mining work, and allowed certain privileged entities to produce some form of signed patch. Effectively it's just taking something like bitcoin and adding a new transaction type. As such, it's a blockchain counterpart to the way that UDF allows modifying and deleting on WORM media (that is, a convention for saying 'x was deleted', or 'x replaces y'), perhaps with the means to prevent the erased information being recovered from the updated blockchain.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    the actual story here is that another bad patent was issued. duh.
    And of course that techweekeurope doesn't understand tech. (but I guess thats not news)

  • by um... Lucas ( 13147 ) on Saturday September 24, 2016 @01:19PM (#52953763) Homepage Journal

    The entire purpose of blockchains (the tech behind bitcoin) is that is an immutable ledger, trustless. First off, accenture's tool is useless for Bitcoin (the main use case of blockchains today) because editing transactions within the blockchain will cause that block, and every block after it, to be unable to be validated. Making a new tech and calling it a blockchain while allowing for edits in previous blocks is basically using the term "blockchain" but creating a bastardization of the technology.

    If after the fact edits do need to be made, and they're actually above board, then the simplest solution is to simply publish new transactions that reverse the transactions that were made in error, NOT to allow any transaction to be arbitrarily altered after the fact.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      My guess would be they want to capitalize on the name, but are either too stupid or too desperate to realize that they have compromised the one core functionality of a Blockchain.

  • Accenture (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 24, 2016 @01:19PM (#52953767)

    Is the remnants of the company which facilitated the Enron scandal. Are we really to trust they will use this crack "responsibly"? Who determines when a block chain should be edited? Them? Why?

    • Accenture is the current name of the former Andersen Consulting, which was originally the tech services arm of the accounting company Arthur Andersen. Andersen Consulting split from Arthur Andersen into a completely separate business unit in 1989 and subsequently broke all ties with Arthur Andersen in August of 2000. Andersen Consulting then changed its name to Accenture in January 2001.

      In summary, Accenture split from Arthur Andersen 13 years before Arthur Andersen's June 15, 2002 conviction in the Enr
  • there's absolutely no technical details on how the aim to accomplish this. Wouldn't they need an insane amount of processing power to accomplish this ? otherwise what use is the blockchain at all ? I call BS.
  • Are these people completely stupid, or are they just so utterly arrogant and full of themselves that they think they can compromise and destroy the technology, but keep the name as marketing gadget?

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Saturday September 24, 2016 @02:08PM (#52953961) Homepage Journal

    "managed by designated administrators under agreed governance rules"

    Sounds like a bank. Or maybe a payment processor.

  • "And because Blockchain is effectively run by a network of unrelated computers, it produces a permanent ledger of transactions with which no one can tamper. Until now."

    “The invention is not designed for ‘permissionless’ systems, like the cryptocurrency system supporting Bitcoin, which is open and decentralised and where the absence of a single governing authority makes absolutely permanent, or ‘immutable,’ recordkeeping vital."

    The author of the article does not seem to underst

  • Disclaimer: I am a business analyst at an insurance company that uses Accenture policy administration software (I do production support).

    I can see the value in a product like this. There's a lot of complexity in billing based on premium rating, fx rates, taxes in different states/countries, etc. that are constantly changing. Maintenance teams struggle to keep up with the requirement changes and there are a lot of weird defects and missed requirements that make their way into billing. It's taken as a given
    • by Rakshasa Taisab ( 244699 ) on Saturday September 24, 2016 @08:58PM (#52955467) Homepage

      Then you don't really understand what makes blockchains useful as compared to any other kind of system.

      For the cases you pointed out, e.g. when changes need to be made to things already in the blockchain, those should be done as new blocks that revert or modify previous blocks. That preserves both the history and trust of the block chain.

    • by jcr ( 53032 )

      an insurance company that uses Accenture policy administration software

      Would you mind telling us what company that is? I want to make sure I never do business with them.

      -jcr

  • I can't help but feel that this is nothing more than a attempt to undermine, short term, confidence in virtual currencies.
    Otherwise known as "market manipulation".
    Price goes down on some press announcement like this, somebody buys large, price rebounds. Somebody cashes in.

  • 1
    Blockchain + Editing Tool = Database

    2
    Blockchain + Editing tool + N 'clients' = N copies of the database

    3
    Blockchain + Editing tool + N 'clients' + M 'concurrent edits' = chaos

    I have a suggestion - Use a proper database.
    Does your $multi-billion business depend on this blockchain|database|record, If it does - Use a proper database, keep it safe.

    • Probably need to explain why chaos

      All the people who use a blockchain for bitcoin need that blockchain to have 'integrity' - no edits and it is in all actors interests to behave (you would hope).
      Also bitcoins are not fungible.

      If you are barclays bank and have made a mistake, no-one at Citibank gives a s***.
      Also USD/GBP is fungible.

  • Thats it. If a system is build to permit abuse, it will be abused. If they want to make a "blockchain" that can be "edited", it is not a blockchain, but abuses the blockchain name for fraudulent uses.

    If a record in a blockchain is wrong, just add a clearly marked correction record at the end, and that's it. No need to "edit" a blockchain, and the error and its corrections are visible and can be accounted for.

Two percent of zero is almost nothing.

Working...