Empowering Financial Freedom with Self-Custody and Compliance Automation


While the vision of Dusk is simple, the steps and necessary components to execute it can be difficult to understand.

Dusk’s mission is to return complete and direct control to the user over
their own assets.

While the mission might appear deceptively simple, it does require a
fundamental rethinking of mainstream technology. Such an overhaul
comprises of a decentralized ledger to serve as a global settlement
layer, zero-knowledge cryptography to safeguard private data, and
essential protocols such as Citadel and Zedger. Citadel enables
privacy-preserving digital identity on Dusk, and Zedger provides a
regulatory framework for the compliant handling of financial

Our team is composed of experts in diverse fields who are working
towards our common mission. The research team is dedicated to exploring
new developments in zero-knowledge cryptography, computing security, and
FinTech. They’re responsible for developing breakthrough technology such
as PlonKup, Succinct Attestation, Phoenix, etc. The development team
then implements those technologies into our software libraries, which
form the foundation of our blockchain and virtual machine stack. Dusk’s
libraries are also widely adopted by many other projects.

We also have a team of regulatory experts who tackle official matters
that most other projects tend to avoid. With so many different aspects
in play, it’s clear that Dusk is a game-changer.

To sum it up, we want to give you an overview of the key building blocks
of Dusk, how they fit together, and most importantly, why and how they
will change the way we approach finance and ownership for the better.

The topics we will cover are:

-   The current limitations
-   Dusk’s solution
-   Zero-knowledge proofs
-   Automated Regulation
-   On-chain tokenization

The limitations of the current financial system

Our current financial system has a lot of limitations, many of which we
take for granted and blindly accept just the way they are. Those
limitations present challenges to both individuals and institutions.

Individuals have limited autonomy over their assets due to the custodial
nature of our financial systems. We let someone else hold our assets,
from government bonds to salaries in a bank. This is mainly because the
practicality of holding gold bars or piles of cash at home is quite

Institutions, on the other hand, have huge overhead costs and allocate
significant resources toward regulatory compliance and data management.
This process is replicated across each bank, with very little scaling or
universal solutions, despite the other banks doing exactly the same
thing. Not to mention liquidity being fractured across all these

The lack of self-custody translates directly into a stagnation of
innovation in the financial market and an abundance of inefficiencies.

For example, arbitrage, which aims to correct and profit from price
inefficiencies, is risky and out of reach for most people in traditional
financial infrastructure. In contrast, the DeFi market provides
innovative technology, such as flash-loans, that are freely available to
everyone. The lack of self-custody and direct control over digital
assets stifles innovation and creates barriers to financial inclusion
and economic freedom.

Dusk’s solution

Dusk’s solution is to provide infrastructure that is intrinsically
compliant, private, and efficient. We believe that by embedding these
principles directly within the core protocol, we’ll not only enable
greater opportunities for innovation and wealth, but, most importantly,
we will help the transition toward a fairer and more inclusive economy,
where direct ownership and value play a fundamental role in empowering
everyone to achieve financial freedom.

The protocol is engineered as a decentralized ledger technology (DLT)
capable of providing fast transaction settlement, as well as immediate
finality, and sybil-resistance. Every node in Dusk’s network is equipped
with software with native support for zero-knowledge cryptography (ZK),
which ensures the privacy and scalability of the ledger and its
transactions. This is different from all other blockchains that use ZK,
where the technology is kept separate from network protocol.

Instead, Dusk protocol makes use of ZK cryptography everywhere, from
Rusk, our confidential smart contract platform, to all other
functionalities, such as Citadel, a zero-knowledge proof, soulbound NFT
that is ideal for digital identity and universal KYC.

The next thing we must consider is regulation. In order to break out of
the crypto sandbox and interact with real-world financial instruments,
it’s necessary to ensure compliance with the regulatory frameworks that
govern those assets, such as stablecoins, but also bonds, ETFs, or other
kinds of securities. Here is probably where Dusk protocol shines the
most. In fact, by enabling compliance to be encoded, we can ensure the
integrity of transactions and entirely remove the possibility of any

You may have heard the expression “code is law”, well we made it so that
law can now be encoded.

The self-driving car

To illustrate the importance of self-custody, let’s imagine owning a
car. Since you own it, you can use it anytime you like and don’t have to
ask anyone for permission. You can even modify it, change its interiors,
paint it, add a better sound system. This is the self-custody element.
It’s yours. You have direct control over it.

But even if you are in control over your car, you still need to follow
the rules of the road. You can’t drive on the opposite side of the road,
for example, and there may be places you can’t drive or park. There are
limitations on what you can legally do with your car.

However, with a self-driving car, all limitations are automatically
enforced. Self-driving cars would come pre-programmed with compliance
baked in, removing entirely the possibility of any traffic rule

In today’s financial ecosystem, you are not allowed to take direct
ownership and control over your assets. It feels just like using your
own car as a taxi, driven and handled by someone else. The absence of
built-in regulations means that someone else is driving (i.e.,
performing operations on your assets) on behalf of owners who are not
trusted to follow the rules. As a result, without custody over your
property, you must rely on the custodian to perform any operation you
desire. Unfortunately, traditional brokers have no incentives to
introduce novelties, but instead see them as a risk and a liability,
considering that any undesired side-effect would threaten their license.

In contrast, the DeFi market provides innovative technology
(i.e. flash-loans, AMMs, liquid staking, etc) precisely because the
owner is directly responsible for his or her assets, and can freely
operate according to his or her own risk appetite. This fosters access
to financial inclusion and economic freedom and helps correct
inefficiencies in the market. For example, arbitrage of DeFi assets is
possible without the use of a leverage instrument and as such it
presents very few risks and is accessible to everyone, while in
traditional finance arbitrage operations involve higher risks due to
leverage and are out of reach for most people.

Zero-knowledge proofs

At Dusk, we believe that privacy is a right, not a privilege. That’s why
we co-founded the Leading Privacy Alliance, and it’s also why
zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) are such a critical part of our project.

To provide a quick overview of ZKPs, they enable users to prove
something to a verifier without revealing any information. An example I
like to give is if you’re trying to get into a bar and need to be over a
certain age. Using ZKPs rather than showing your ID and sharing your
date of birth, your name, your address, etc, you would generate a
cryptographic proof that you meet the criteria. No other information is
provided, just that you satisfy the minimum age requirement.

Privacy is essential for both traditional financial instruments and new
web3 ones. The absence of privacy is an obstacle to mainstream adoption,
since it’s highly improbable that professional organizations will ever
accept settling their dealings in the open and having their whole
financial history public.

At the same time, we don’t want to promote secrecy or backroom deals.
There has been a long-standing lack of transparency in the financial
system, which has led to people becoming distrustful of the institutions
that govern and regulate them.

ZKPs help us to keep our critical information private from unwanted
prying eyes such as blockchain snoopers, overreaching governments, and
even angry ex-partners. They allow us to stay above board and ensure
that transactions are legitimate, while also protecting sensitive

While the concept of ZKPs is fascinating, the research required to
create a system that can construct these proofs at scale and speed is
significant. That’s why we have a dedicated research team that is
working hard to push this cryptographic tool forward and turn it from a
concept into a reality that can power global infrastructure.


Citadel is a ZKP, privacy-preserving, soulbound NFT product that we have
developed, and it has many advantages for both individuals and

KYC can be very costly for institutions. They have to invest large
amounts of money to store and validate data and identities while also
complying with regulations. They must confirm that people are who they
say they are, secure the data, and store it in a way that is compliant,
particularly in the case of EU institutions who must comply with GDPR.
This is particularly prohibitive for small and medium enterprises for
whom the costs of compliance in holding a user’s data are not offset by
the advantage this can offer.

With Citadel, they no longer have to bear this expense. Individuals can
complete their KYC once using Citadel and then receive a cryptographic
seal of approval that they can use to interact with various services,
from trading to streaming, which establishes a kind of global identity
layer. This frees up significant resources for companies, who can
allocate their resources to more meaningful activities.

For individuals, Citadel offers the benefit of protecting their data, as
well as the assurance that their information isn’t held in multiple
locations. Not only would they enjoy the convenience of completing their
KYC only once to access all available services, but they would
significantly decrease the chance of having their personal information
stolen or doxxed (which happened with Celsius, FTX, LastPass, etc).

Automated compliance

The cost of compliance is immense. The amount of resources required to
comprehend, implement, and enforce it are enormous, not to mention the
cost of prosecuting fraud, money laundering, and other illegal

By being the custodian of their users’ assets, institutions are very
distrustful of anyone’s implementation but their own. This leads each
institution to duplicate the technology infrastructure that implements
the exact same sets of rules, alongside maintaining duplicates of their
users’ personal data and KYC/AML information, despite the fact that the
rules and this information don’t vary across platforms.

To explain the supreme inefficiency of such a practice, let me offer a
silly, but efficacious similitude. If the regulations were a song
everyone has to listen to, each institution is paying a different band
to come to perform the song for their users, rather than redirecting
them to a single online streaming platform. In this example, Dusk would
be the online streaming platform everybody can use.

With Dusk, the features of user’s self-custody and compliance automation
at the protocol level, offer the opportunity for a universal
infrastructure for each standard regulatory framework which the network
supports (at the moment those are MiCA and Mifid II).

In short, by adopting Dusk, each institution would intensely benefit
from avoiding the staggering costs of creating and maintaining their own
system infrastructure as well as developing new products such as
KYC-as-a-service (which they could offer without any transmission of
personal data, thanks to the power of zero-knowledge cryptography
equipped by Citadel).

Tokenize everything

The final point I will touch on today is our belief that there is a huge
inefficiency in the current financial market, which is that different
asset classes cannot move freely. With Dusk, we can tokenize a vast
range of assets on-chain, from stocks to shares to bonds to your
mortgage and more.

This will allow for greater capital efficiency, as while a bond and a
stock might be different things off-chain, on-chain they are just bytes
and can be traded and moved with more fluidity and ease. These types of
activities are currently either impossible or very costly with a high
barrier to entry.

Through blockchain technology, we can see real equality of financial
opportunity, and open up the full suite of financial instruments -
including those not yet seen - to everyone.

The future of finance and ownership

At Dusk, we are fully committed and dedicated to revolutionizing the
financial industry, and our approach to doing so is unparalleled. As far
as we know, no one else is addressing the issues we are, and we’re proud
to be blazing this new trail.

To help others understand what we’re building, we’re starting a new
initiative where our team of experts - including researchers,
developers, and thought leaders - will contribute articles that delve
into their work, vision, and expertise. We want to make it easy for
everyone, from crypto investors to institutions to developers, to
understand and get involved with our groundbreaking project.

So stay tuned - we’re excited to share more behind-the-scenes insights
with you on a regular basis.