In 2014, three credit card companies in Korea suffered a security breach that resulted in over 100 million pieces of personal information being leaked. It turned out that the leak came from an insider, causing many people to realize that their information was no longer safe. Despite this, hacking and leaks have continued to occur and most now assume that their private details are in the public domain already.
Waem is a security platform that CEO Cho Rae-seong developed thanks to an idea inspired by his son who asked why all personal information wasn’t divided up. Until now, most systems store all personal information in one location, making it even easier for data to be leaked internally. If this information was split up and required the individual’s permission to view the data, would things be better? Something similar to the multiple keys needed to activate a nuclear weapon like you see in the movies.
“While carrying out data security consulting for over 10 years, one problem was that there was no way of stopping staff from leaking data,” says Cho. “If someone internally decides to access private details and use them maliciously, there’s isn’t much you can do. I thought that by dividing up the data and requiring the approval of the person in question, we should be able to stop these leaks.”
Another way to think about it is your information is being put through a paper shredder, but you hold the key to putting it all back together. Even if info is leaked, it will only contain a snippet of the original information. The system is similar to blockchain, but instead of confirming the data at multiple points, only you as the owner are asked when information is used.
“As blockchain has become popular, it has made explaining our technology easier. In 2015, we got some pushback from people asking why we should hold their data, but thanks to Blockchain persuading people to split up their data has become a little easier.”
Waem’s first project to use the technology is an app aimed at couples called ‘Halfie’ that blocks the sharing of photos and videos without the permission of the other user. Halfie connects two users and when you take a photo with the app, it sends half of the data to the other person. After this, every time one user looks at the photo they need to get the “OK” from the other person first. This feature can also be disabled for those who don’t want to have to do this every single time.
If a couple breaks up and one user removes the other’s profile, all photos shared between them disappear and cannot be restored. One advantage of this is that it prevents former lovers from spreading private photos after the relationship ends in acts of revenge.
Of course, there are other secure image storage apps on the market, but a majority of these use some sort of password system, and the person on the other end of the photo has no control over how it’s used. Waem says that it’s developing a messaging app which uses the same technology as Halfie and will be released next year.
Aside from this, Waem has another security solution called Secu Login, an authentication method that can be applied to all services. Using Secu Login eliminates the need for passwords and will be applied to smart city projects in the near future.
“Through Waem’s services, we hope that our society can become one that has control over their personal data,” says Cho. “Personally, I have a strong desire to give back information rights to individuals by carrying out a movement and achieving informational democracy.”