There is hardly another paradigm that can compare to the likes of blockchain technology. Experts believe that our data is most secure when stored in these ecosystems.
With the rapid digitization of all aspects of our lives is the realization of cyber crime as a pervasive reality. Most of us have, at some point, been subject to phishing or some other hacking attempt. We have all come to accept such things as a part of the digital landscape. Like road accidents and burglaries, online calamity is just as probable and symptomatic of a modern way of life.
This level of understanding is exemplary of a sophisticated user class, prompting black hats to expand their reach and overall finesse. In turn, malware has become increasingly sophisticated, and cyber attacks are notably more complex and precise. It is not enough for the modern hacker to simply take down a network for bragging rights. Spoils now include the likes of intellectual property, health records, financial data and personally identifiable information (PII): Assets that can elevate the average Joe to cyber criminal status (with the benefit of anonymity if pulled off correctly).
But if it ever seemed that people’s data was poised for the taking, a rapid adoption of blockchain technology should be enough to quell such beliefs. In fact, the advent of blockchain technology alone has reaffirmed the concept of robust networks that can persist against a plethora of cyber attacks. The same innovation that powered Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has begun crossing industry sectors with the capabilities of protecting digital identities and ensuring data integrity.
Power of the Platform
A blockchain platform is what facilitates the development of software based on blockchain technology. Equipped with inbuilt, consensus-building systems, these platforms provide hardened security and can detect fraudulent activity, like the tampering of records. These powerful defense mechanisms also promote transparency and auditability and utilize data encryption for added protection. Couple this with no single or independent point of failure, and you have one of the best existing security systems there is!
In fact, smart contracts, which are integral to almost every platform, enable the tracing and auditing of any transaction within its global network. Unlike in normal scenarios, in which hackers set their sites on a centralized data center, most find it nearly impossible to penetrate and infringe upon the blockchain and its system of peers. Security is made ironclad through a shared database and cryptographic keys that decentralizes it on each connected node. This not only curbs the possibility of security breaches, but effectively eliminates them.
Why Blockchain Technology is Hacker Proof
For hackers to have any chance at infiltrating a blockchain system, they would essentially have to break into every node within its network to successfully lift or manipulate its data. This is virtually impossible, as the number of nodes that make up a network may very well be in the millions. Besides, editing rights are specific to each domain and are vested with those who require them. So even if a hacker managed to pull off the impossible, it is still unlikely he would be able to obtain these permissions.
New information is also safe. Each time a block is created, it is stored within a shared database known as a distributed ledger. Each decentralized instance of this database is then updated (or synchronized) to reflect the new entry, which is equipped with a cryptographic hash of the preceding record, a key for unlocking the next block of data that will be stored, a timestamp, and the transaction data itself.
Make no mistake: These aren’t the only intrinsic values associated with blockchain technology. The following attributes also show why many see it as a definitive solution for cybersecurity:
The blockchain network is considered peer-to-peer (P2P) and does not require third-party verification, as any authorized user of the network has access to all transactions. Meanwhile, it locks out intruders and bars those with no access.
Easy Track and Trace
All transactions are digitally signed and marked with a timestamp. Users of the network, therefore, have no problem when tracing historical data for any moment in the past. These snapshots equip system administrators with knowledge about the exact state of assets or distribution chain of products. Secrecy, accuracy and tractability go hand-in-hand with blockchain technology.
Public-key cryptography is used to authenticate users and encrypt transactions, providing members of a blockchain with unparalleled privacy. This virtue is at the heart of the blockchain and those who use it.
Tough on Fraud
Hacking attempts are difficult to pull off on peer-to-peer networks like blockchain. This is because malicious activity is easily detected and eliminated through a distributed consensus, making each blockchain system a secure one.
The fact that a blockchain is void of a single point of failure means that its immune to the likes of traditional DDoS attacks. Should one occur, the system will continue to function where other copies of the ledger are active.
Another benefit of using a distributed ledger system is that its data remains immaculate. Transactions are authenticated and verified by multiple members. The data in each encrypted block is irreversible and shielded from hacking attempts.
A peer-to-peer network, by definition, means that its operational at all times. This is true even when some nodes go offline, or become compromised due to a cyber attack. When the latter is true, the infected node can be abandoned without disrupting the workflow.
Public or Private
Blockchain comes in three (3) primary flavors: Public, private and a mix of the two (known as Hybrid). Private networks are more bespoke than their public counterparts and are restricted to specific users. This pool of folks will need to be authenticated to gain access privileges, which can still be confined to limited functionality.
As we all know, a hacker has a proclivity to barge his way into systems—usually by exploiting the vulnerabilities of a switch and router. But a host of other devices, like cameras and thermostats, can also be hacked. Known collectively as the Internet of Things (IoT), these devices are notorious for lacking sophisticated security mechanisms.
This is where blockchain technology can be leveraged. You could, for instance, have a number of devices conform to a specific security policy and constitute what’s normal activity, and what isn’t. Any activity that fails your security check can trigger its node to be shut down. Blockchain can also help secure the transmission of data among these devices. Because there is no centralized authority which controls the network, cyber attacks are less likely and timely communication can be facilitated among devices located anywhere in the world.
Secure Private Messaging
Social media conversations are sticklers for anti-privacy practices. The bulk of them are aggregated by third-party systems, and metadata, as a whole, is usually collected for historical purposes. While some services do offer end-to-end encryption, many have begun looking to blockchain for better solutions. This is especially true for messaging apps that lack security protocols. In these cases, blockchain technology can be used to unify communication by connecting different platforms and securing all exchanges of data among them.
Right to Forget
We as humans are creating data all the time. Sometimes this data is offline, but the bulk of it, these days, is logged online—even when it isn’t required! The trouble with this is the availability of said-data, which spawned a fight between advocates and search giants like Google. Not only does this threaten the safety of individuals, but it imposes on one’s right to rehabilitate themselves, or, learn from their mistakes and evolve. The Right to Erasure, as it is also called, may be reserved for Europe only, but blockchain technology protects this right inherently. Should you ever “forget” your key, your data is safe as no one could decrypt it.
Speaking of availability, all data within a blockchain is available to its network via multiple, decentralized copies. This is a huge selling point and cannot be emphasized enough. With blockchain technology, you no longer need to store important and/or sensitive data in one place and restrict its access.
This should come as no surprise given the popularity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In the physical world, banks can benefit from the multi-level security protocols provided by blockchain to help mitigate risk. The Boston-based bank, Santander, for example, was a pioneer in the adoption of blockchain technology to help secure their international payments service.
Why Blockchain Technology is The Way Forward
The subset of the fourth industrial revolution, aptly dubbed Industry 4.0, promises to transform the way we live. IoT will continue to gain ground, which means that cybersecurity will also evolve and force people to consider the likes of blockchain technology. New requirements will necessitate the daily authentication of millions of devices connected to centralized systems.
Blockchain does this and more. Employees of organizations that are adequately trained can create blockchains to protect company and trade secrets as well detect suspicious activity on their networks. Alternatively, this task can also be outsourced to security vendors which specialize in blockchain technology. The popularity of these platforms has exploded in recent years, with new contenders stepping to the plate with unique product offerings.
Adequate protection and countermeasures to impending online dangers is an endless concern among modern corporations. The idea of impenetrable systems is always an attractive selling point—especially when the “human element” can be safely removed. Blockchain does this when storing data, minimizing errors that might otherwise lead to data breaches or identity theft.
Any forward-thinking business or industry with digital assets is bound to see the benefit of adopting blockchain as its primary security model. Everything, from ensuring the highest level confidentiality and integrity; to securing private messaging and improving public key infrastructure (PKI); is par for the course for blockchain technology. And with the prospect of 5G powered networks, it can certainly help make revolutionary technology safe.
To recap, let’s once again look at the components a blockchain system can secure:
Applications (particularly those which share data across geographically diverse locations)
And finally, there are several key mechanisms which promote cybersecurity to be aware of. They are:
Public and/or private key encryption for stakeholders to manage accesss.
Transaction data integrity secured within blocks with the help of cryptographic hashes. This makes each block immutable and prevents data hacking.
Because blockchain technology uses distributed ledger systems, networks are more resilient with no single point of failure. Availability and maintainability is also increased, making it possible for continuous data transactions.
Ingrained transparency makes it nearly impossible for hackers to infiltrate using malware or other manipulative devices.
The consensus mechanism of blockchains provide security to new data blocks by mandating that all the stakeholders validate and continually compare them with previous transactions. This helps prevent anyone with mala fide intention from manipulating or corrupting data in any manner.
Blockchain technology first came to prominence through its enabling of the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency markets. Since those days, it has garnered a reputation for its inbuilt security: A distributed ledger, or database, that remains synchronized across multiple sites, and components which alleviate the human element among information systems. From healthcare and banking to pharmaceuticals and logistics, the interest in leveraging blockchain technology for security is immense. It could very well be the panacea for all things security, with many expecting it to come into its own with the rollout of 5G technology.