Internet giant Microsoft is looking at Ethereum’s blockchain technology as a way of combatting software piracy.
Microsoft Research Asia, in partnership with Alibaba Group and Carnegie Mellon University, have released a paper outlining the broad strokes of Argus – a “fully transparent incentive system for anti-piracy campaigns”.
Argus is a systems and network monitoring application designed to track the status of network services, servers, and other network hardware. It relies on cost-effective reporting of piracy via the public Ethereum network.
The Windows operating system and Office suite have long been among the most used software providers and, as such, are common piracy victims.
As the title of the research – “Argus: A Fully Transparent Incentive System for Anti-Piracy Campaigns” – says, Microsoft’s new system relies on the transparency aspect of blockchain technology. Built on the Ethereum blockchain, Argus wants to provide a trustless incentive mechanism while protecting data collected from the open anonymous population of piracy reporters.
Full transparency is obligatory
“We see this as a distributed system problem,” the paper states.
“In the implementation, we overcome a set of unavoidable obstacles to ensure security despite full transparency.”
The paper also adds that the company believes in the effectiveness of this mechanism and explains the team optimised several cryptographic operations “so that the cost for piracy reporting is reduced to an equivalent cost of sending about 14 ETH transfer transactions to run on the public Ethereum network, which would otherwise correspond to thousands of transactions”.
“To achieve it, our design requires an effective strategy for information hiding,” it explains.
“Specifically for the procedure of report submission, Argus needs to ensure that, although everybody in the open population can see the interactions between an informer and the Argus contract, nobody other than the informer can replay the interactions effectively.”
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