Blockchain

What Are Digital Credentials?

Published
November 23, 2022
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Dock's expert team has been building cutting-edge verifiable digital credentials technology since 2017. In this article, we’ll go over what digital credentials are, how they work, and their benefits for organizations and individuals.

TL;DR

  • Physical credentials like degrees, IDs, and certificates and some types of digital credentials can be easily forged, stolen, or lost.
  • Digital credentials are digital certificates or documents that are given by a party to prove someone’s qualification, claim, or achievement. 
  • Verifiable digital credentials are fraud-proof and instantly verifiable for authenticity. They enable organizations to save a lot of money, create more efficiencies, enhance their reputation, and protect the value of their credentials.
  • Digital credentials allow individuals to have a lifelong record of their achievements that they can bring anywhere on their phone app to present to verifiers anytime.
  • Dock Certs is a user-friendly platform that allows people to easily issue, verify, revoke, and manage digital credentials.

Introduction

Certificate fraud is a huge and growing problem around the world across many sectors. Fake diplomas are a billion dollar industry and people can easily buy fake credentials online for low prices. That’s why a growing number of businesses, governments, educational institutions, and non-profits are using verifiable digital credentials to make fraud-proof certificates that can be verified instantly.

What Are Digital Credentials?

Digital credentials are digital certificates or documents that are given by a party to prove someone’s qualification, claim, or achievement. Digital credentials are often a digital version of what we normally get as physical documents such as an association membership certificate, passport, state ID, driver’s license, and university degree. 

Digital credentials are simple to provide, manage, and verify. Some credentials may contain personal information such as someone’s birthplace, name, birth date, or biometric information like a fingerprint.

Problems With Physical Credentials and Some Digital Documents

Editable degree from Etsy

Physical credentials can be lost, stolen, and easily forged. Many people around the world simply photoshop documents and are hired without having the right qualifications.

This practice is especially dangerous when people work as fake doctors, nurses, engineers, or construction workers. Injuries, company liabilities, and deaths have resulted from hiring people without the right qualifications in these types of positions. 

These are just a few of many examples around the world of the damage caused by people with fake credentials:

  • In the US, Dennis Roark practiced as a fake surgeon for more than a decade and never had problems passing the credentialing process at the many institutions he worked at despite the fact that he was not a doctor. There are at least two lawsuits against him where his work may have led to injuries or death.
  • In Germany, a woman who posed as a doctor was sentenced to life in prison for causing the deaths of several people she treated.
  • A New Zealand man used a stolen identity and falsified credentials to pursue a long engineering career. He was the supervisor for the construction of a building that collapsed during the February 2011 earthquake causing the deaths of 115 people. 
  • A woman facing charges of being a fake nurse in Vancouver pleads guilty to similar charges in Ottawa as she treated many patients.

Even some digital certificates like JPGs, DOCs, or PDFs are very easy to copy as many people simply take a screenshot and use an editing tool to change the information. These versions of digital credentials aren’t secure enough to prevent forging. In one study, 1,000 US professionals were surveyed about the accuracy of their resumes. About 30% of participants said that they "bent the truth" about their skills and experience. 

Thankfully, now we have verifiable digital credentials that can create secure fraud-proof certificates and documents. 

More employers are looking for specific skill sets that can be learned through work projects, workshops, and online courses in addition to formal education like college and university. Because skill-based hiring is growing quickly, the demand for online credentials, including certificates and degrees, is booming. Many credential issuers and online education companies reported a 70% growth in 2020.

What Are Verifiable Digital Credentials?

Verifiable digital credentials can be checked instantly for authenticity

Traditional verification processes take days, weeks, or even months to check if someone’s physical or non-verifiable digital credentials are authentic. The processes are often manual and usually involve staff calling up a university, training school, or licensing organization to check that someone’s credentials are valid. In contrast, Verifiable Credentials can be checked instantly and at much lower costs, which saves organizations a lot of money, resources, and time. 

The main difference between the older versions of digital credentials and verifiable digital credentials is that people can instantly verify if they are authentic or not by simply scanning a QR code or using an easy-to-use verification tool like Dock’s credential verifier. Verifiable digital credentials are cryptographically secured versions of both paper and online credentials that people can present to organizations that need to check their authenticity such as an employer, government department, or inspector.  

How Do Verifiable Digital Credentials Work to Prevent Fraud?

Digital credential authenticity can be verified with a phone app

What makes verifiable digital credentials fraud-proof is that issuers digitally sign the credentials with their unique ID that can be checked instantly by any verifier. Dock uses advanced cryptography to make the digital credentials and IDs tamper-resistant. This makes it very difficult for bad actors to duplicate or manipulate the information to create fraudulent credentials. Cryptography is an area of computer science that focuses on transforming data so that it can’t be accessed by unauthorized users and is used to protect digital data. 

A verifier, like an employer, only trusts the credentials that are issued from the unique digital IDs of specific issuers like accredited colleges and universities. If, for example, a job applicant tried to make a fake certificate with the name of one of those universities, the employer would immediately know that the certificate is forged because if they scanned the credential’s QR code, it would show up as an invalid document. The verifier app would know that the certificate is fake since the credential does not contain the unique ID of the issuing university. 

If you uploaded a digital credential on Dock’s verification tool, this is what would appear if the credential was authentic:

Authentic digital credential checked by Dock's verification tool.

Benefits of Digital Credentials for Organizations 

Digital credential instantly verified by scanning a QR code

Instantly Verifiable

As we mentioned, traditional verification processes take a lot of time and resources to check if someone’s credentials are authentic. One area where long verification processes cause huge problems is when nurses wait at least three months to get their licenses. Many often wait more than six months. These verification obstacles prevent nurses from entering the workforce to fill staffing shortages in many hospitals.

In contrast, verifiable digital credentials can be instantly checked which allows employers to speed up the hiring process as they search for applicants with the right skills and qualifications without having to call up the issuing organization.

Save a Lot of Money

Organizations will save a lot of staff resources and money by using verifiable digital credentials with easy-to-use platforms like Dock Certs and API integrations that enable recipients to automatically receive their credentials. Here are a few of many examples of the high costs of older verification processes:

Enhancing Reputation

Digital credentials will show people that the institution is innovative and cares about providing people with fraud-proof digital credentials that are portable, secure, and that they fully own. 

Protect the Value of the Credential

People spend tens of thousands of dollars on their college, trades, and university degrees and certificates. When fraudsters create fake credentials with the name of reputable institutions, it devalues the legitimate programs. Digital credentials help maintain the integrity and value of the programs.

Automated

Digital credentials software can be integrated in existing systems which can save a tremendous amount of admin time. For example, let’s say an online course provider with over 10,000 students integrates the Dock Certs API into their platform so that every time a student completes a course, the company will automatically send a verifiable digital credential to their email in PDF and JSON formats. The JSON format allows the recipient to import their credential into their phone app like the Dock Wallet

Save Time

Digital credentials save organizations a lot of time because they can streamline administrative processes and quickly access credential information. This way, staff can spend less time issuing and verifying credentials and more time doing more important tasks. 

Benefits of Digital Credentials for Individuals

Verifier requesting a digital credential

Portable

Digital credentials enable people to bring their credentials anywhere with their phone app and they can be verified instantly. For example, in construction and oil and gas, companies need to quickly hire workers with the right training and skills, but they don’t always have the resources and time to do the full verification processes, which puts other workers and the public at risk. 

But if job applicants had their credentials on their phone, an employer could simply use their app to scan the credential on the spot and instantly know if it is authentic or not. This would greatly speed up the hiring process without having to take a lot of time and resources to manually call up the training organization to verify the authenticity of their licenses and certificates.

Maintains User Privacy

Verifiable digital credentials maintain people’s privacy because someone always needs to give permission and authorization to share a credential with a verifier.

Let’s say a company wants to hire an Environmental Scientist who has a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Engineering, or a technical diploma in Environmental Technology. When they request to view the credential, the job applicant can authorize the hiring manager to view their certificate and what information contained in the certificate they can read. 

Lifelong Record of Skills

People are always learning and gaining skills outside of formal institutions with their work experience, side projects, and professional development courses. By being able to store these accumulated digital credentials, they can easily prove their range of experience and education to employers and other verifiers through these interoperable records. Even if someone’s past employer goes out of business, their digital credential won’t disappear and will securely be stored on their phone as long as the credential isn’t revoked.

Types of Digital Credentials

Digital certificates, digital badges, and micro-credentials all fall under the umbrella of digital credentials. But there are key differences between each type.

Digital Certificates

Nursing digital credential

A digital certificate is a type of electronic credential that can prove the authenticity of a person, device, server, or website. In regards to learning, compared to digital badges, digital certificates are awarded as digital credentials for achievements that take longer like a university degree or a two-year certification program. 

Anything that can be issued as a physical certificate can be done as a digital certificate including: 

  • Trade certifications
  • University and college degrees
  • Food safety training certification
  • Health and safety training certification

Digital Badges

Digital credential badge for a workshop

The purpose of digital badges is to recognize skills gained in less formal settings outside of traditional education systems. Digital badges are usually used for credentials that take a short time to learn like completing a project or a workshop. Digital badges look like a physical medal and are issued by a variety of organizations including training providers, non-profits, companies, and colleges. They can represent simple participation in a workshop to competency-based learning. 

Digital badges can be verifiable digital credentials that contain:

  • The issuer identity
  • Recipient name
  • Award criteria
  • Issue date
  • Evidence of learning

Key aspects of digital badges:

  • Can use shapes, colors, and symbols to identify levels of achievement
  • Designed so they can be easily embedded and shared across a variety of platforms like social media, email signature, online portfolio, and resume 

Examples of when a digital badge can be awarded:

  • Completing an online course
  • Participating in an event
  • Verifying specific levels of commitments like a blood drive badge
  • Mastery of a specific skill like Javascript

Micro-Credentials

Micro-credential for completing a course

Micro-credentials are certifications that confirm when someone achieves the learning outcomes of a short course, webinar, or module. Micro-certificates can be added to someone’s record throughout their professional career. People can present micro-certificates during job interviews or use them for professional development within an organization.

Use Cases For Digital Credentials

These are some of many examples of organizations that can benefit from digital credentials:

  • Government inspector issuing organic food certification
  • Professional marketing association issues certificates for different levels of memberships
  • High school automatically issues digital certificates to all graduates
  • Airline issues digital certificates for frequent travelers who are VIP members 
  • Company issues certificates for each staff member
  • School issues trade licenses such as mechanic, electrician, and plumber
  • Government issuing identity cards for residents

Dock’s Digital Credentials Platform

You can use our Dock Certs platform to easily issue, verify, manage, and revoke verifiable digital credentials at a low cost with high security.Our Solutions Architect Mike Parkhill shows how easy and quick it is to issue digital credentials:

Conclusion

The problem with physical certificates, documents, and other credentials is they are easy to forge, lose, and steal. Even some forms of digital documents are easy to forge with photo editing tools and people can buy fake credentials online for cheap. 

That’s why verifiable digital credentials are a great solution to enable organizations to issue fraud-proof certificates and verify digital credentials instantly which will save them a lot of money, reduce administrative time, enhance their reputation, and protect the value of their credential. Verifiable digital credentials are great for individuals because they help people maintain their privacy, are portable as they can carry their credentials on their phone app anywhere, and create a lifelong record of their achievements and experience. 

Dock Certs is an intuitive and user-friendly digital credentials platform that enables people to easily issue, verify, manage, and revoke Verifiable Credentials.

Learn More

About Dock

Dock is a Verifiable Credentials company that provides Dock Certs, a user-friendly, no-code platform, and developer solutions that enable organizations to issue, manage and verify fraud-proof credentials efficiently, securely, and at a lower cost. Dock enables organizations and individuals to create and share verified data.

“We’ve looked at a lot of the systems that allow you to issue DIDs and VCs and generally what we’ve found is that Dock is far easier to use than many of the existing tools out there. It can deploy very quickly and it will be very easy for our developers to use the tool.”
Amber Hartley
Chief Strategy Officer, BurstlQ

Start issuing Verifiable Credentials today

Dock Certs is an all-in-one suite of Verifiable Credential (VC) tools built for organizations to issue digital credentials and certificates that are automatically and instantly verifiable, fraud-proof and auditable.