Technology that Drives Information Security

Posted on Tuesday, October 20th, 2020

Photograph of an underground parking lot with a person's hands holding a smart phone
Apps like HonkMobile and Rover help Toronto drivers find and reserve legal parking downtown. But with new technologies, it is crucial to consider user security.

Improved privacy technology can assist parking spot sharing and ease traffic congestion.

Studies from 11 major cities across the globe found that on average, 30 per cent of the cars on congested downtown streets were driving in search of parking. The big-city parking challenge has prompted people who own private parking spaces to rent or exchange the spaces via digital platforms. Think of the practice as an AirBnb for your car. However, within existing parking spot sharing platforms, individuals who enter their personal and payment information may be at risk of cyberattacks.

Blockchain to Enhance Privacy

This risk prompted University of Guelph computer science professor, Xiaodong Lin, to collaborate on a privacy-enhanced scheme that will enable users to share their private parking spots safely. Lin and his colleagues argue that blockchain technology—driven by sophisticated math and software rules that are very difficult to exploit—holds incredible promise for alleviating the privacy risk.

Using a series of mathematical algorithms, the team explored the system of private parking spot sharing and identified the key threats. For example, most existing shared parking schemes rely on a “trusted third party” (e.g. a corporation or the government) to generate pseudonyms or issue anonymous credentials when users enter their information. The problem, however, is that if there is any breach in the information held by the trusted third parties, then all the users’ private information is compromised. To alleviate the threat of such a security breach, the research team designed a new privacy-enhanced scheme using blockchain. The scheme authenticates user information, ensures that data remain confidential, confirms reliable payments, and provides resistance to cyberattacks. 

Efficient and Secure Technology

Using computer simulations, Lin and his colleagues evaluated the performance of their scheme. They found that it not only kept the information secure but is computationally efficient and does not require much server space to operate.

“Private parking spot sharing has enormous potential for relieving congestion, helping with air pollution, and increasing economic efficiency in big cities,” says Lin. “However, users must feel confident that the information they provide is secure. Our study demonstrates the utility of blockchain technology for privacy and security.”

Professor Xiaodong Lin Headshot

Professor Xiaodong Lin is an Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science

This work was supported in part by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant 61802217 and in part by the China Scholarship Foundation for Studying Abroad. This work was also partially supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Wang L, Lin X, Zima E, Ma C. Towards Airbnb-Like Privacy-Enhanced Private Parking Spot Sharing Based on Blockchain. IEEE Trans. Veh. Technol. 2020 Jan 7. doi: 10.1109/TVT.2020.2964526

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