Two newly-published patent applications from Microsoft suggest that the software giant is looking at the use of trusted execution environments, or TEEs, within its blockchain offerings.
But what exactly is a TEE? According to information gathered from two filings published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Thursday, a TEE is specified to store “a pre-determined type of blockchain or other security protocol code” in a “validation node.”
With this kind of data, a “TEE attestation” is able to verify participants of the system who possess matching information held within the node. In blockchain, a node is simply a point of connection able to receive, store and send data within the network.
And how all this might prove to be useful is explained in two ways.
First, a TEE may assist in the establishment of a “consortium blockchain network.” By setting up the first node of the blockchain to store “a pre-determined membership list” among other pieces of information, a TEE attestation could be used to securely onboard members of the “consortium network.”
Second, a TEE may also assist in verifying blockchain transactions on a similar network in which multiple pre-authorized entities must interact. For example, using this process of attestation through programmed TEEs once more, certain encrypted transactions on the network could be processed and confirmed “directly” to the official state of the blockchain without any need for decryption.
The patent reads:
“In some examples, the entire network accepts the transactions, including chaincode transactions, and blockchain states are directly updated. In some examples, there is no need for a copy of the transaction in order to confirm a block.”
Aside from these two use cases, both applications also give mention to the process of TEE attestation in context of a “Confidential Consortium (COCO) Blockchain framework” which would potentially allow more complex systems of verification requiring the consensus of a multiplicity of validation nodes.
While these filings were submitted by the licensing arm of the company as early back as June of last year, Microsoft has since began offering blockchain applications through its Azure platform. This month, it was announced Microsoft has updated additional features to the product specifically for clients working off of public blockchains such as ethereum.