The plan of the State of Saxony-Anhalt, which has been implemented in cooperation with Bundesdruckerei and Init AG as a project service provider since 2019, is currently pending.
Easier application processes thanks to digital certificates
The hoped–for advantages of digital testimony – also in the blockchain – sound tempting. With digital help, it would be possible, for example, to avoid the cumbersome certification of paper certificates when applying to universities and to automate lengthy administrative processes. Prospective students would thus be allowed to apply to several universities at the same time. In addition, digital certificates offer extensive protection against forgery and manipulation.
According to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Digital Affairs, a digital certificate could provide easier access to training professions, studies, internships, and advanced training. At the same time, one could generate evidence for pension insurance. This would also provide a good basis for the planned process automation in the administrative area.
Saxony Anhalt had already successfully developed the digital BAföG application. However, the requirements for the digital certificate were completely different, and from the very beginning there were significant concerns about the project.
Blockchain solution was preferred
At the start of the project in November 2019, Init AG, as a project service provider, evaluated three technologies that can be used to implement a digital certificate. The most popular proposal was based on blockchain technology.
From the very beginning, the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) had concerns about this solution. “The use of less well-studied technologies should only be considered if such risks outweigh extensive advantages in other areas,” the expert from the BSI told MDR.
Other IT experts, such as Manuel Atug from the Chaos Computer Club, also expressed their criticism of the plans to the MDR. “A digital solution for a testimony is Humbug. But of course it makes sense for those who want to have funding or see it as a prestige project,” says Atug.
Temporary Project Suspension and Future of Blockchain Testimonials
The temporary end of the project was then sealed by a hack. In February 2022, software developer Lilith Wittmann managed to write content to the blockchain. Even before that, attackers had gained access to the blockchain. Theoretically, it would have been possible to put fake certificates on the blockchain, which would be certified by the state.
The Bundesdruckerei, as the responsible body, then decided to take the digital school certificate offline. Initially, there was talk of making improvements and closing security gaps. In the meantime, the MDR reports that the project has only a low priority in the IT Planning Council and is “now dead”. Contrary to this view, Lilith Wittmann reported on Twitter on August 1 that Saxony-Anhalt is allegedly making a new attempt to enable school certificates as digital certificates.
What else I wanted to tell you:
The state of Saxony-Anhalt is starting all over again with the school certificate as a digital certificate – as it looks, also in the blockchain.
Contrary to the recommendation of the working level at the BMBF and the Bundesdruckerei. 🤡
– Lilith Wittmann (@LilithWittmann) August 1, 2022