A lot has been made of the blockchain recently. Not just because it is the technology used to fuel the thousands of cryptocurrencies there are now, but because the distributed nature of the technology has become the model for many new technological strategies. There are plans to use blockchain technology to do a great many things, but one element where blockchain can help immediately is for cybersecurity. Today we’ll take a look at the blockchain and why it may be the key to the future of network and cybersecurity.
The Genesis Block
When the Internet was finally taking off in the early 1990s, there were many detractors who said that it was a fad. There was an article written for Newsweek by astronomer Clifford Stoll that was titled, “Why the Web Won’t Be Nirvana”. You see, in 1995, the Internet wasn't the tool you think of today. It was a brand-new technology without the breadth of website and application development that has made it into the virtual world that it is now. In the first paragraph he wrote:
Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries, and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electric town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic.
23 years later, except for making government more democratic, it all happened, leaving a once-cynical Stoll to say, “Of my many mistakes, flubs, and howlers, few have been as public as my 1995 howler… Now, whenever I think I know what’s happening, I temper my thoughts: Might be wrong, Cliff…”
So when looking at the potential uses for blockchain, it should be understood that the technology is still very much nascent; and, has its detractors.
A contributing writer for Forbes, Frances Coppola, took down the technology in an 2016 article starting the article with, “I’m fed up with the hype around blockchain. It’s not rocket science, it’s not revolutionary and it’s not even that smart. And it’s not going to change the world.” She goes on to talk about how it’s just a stripped-down payments system and that since it does not fundamentally change the way payments work, that it’s just slightly more convenient, but doesn’t eliminate the need to trust the vendor and or customer.
There are hundreds of potential applications for blockchain, and if Coppola is right, the $1.3 billion in venture capital blockchain-related technologies have garnered so far in 2018 alone suggests that some of the most risk-averse investors in the world are investing money in a burgeoning technology that will produce faulty applications. More likely, however, that like Stoll, the one part of the equation she hasn’t taken into account is the human ingenuity necessary to make technology like this into viable applications.
Another Block In the Chain
With data increasingly becoming a premium asset, and cyberattacks more prevalent and targeted than ever, organizations of all types are attempting to find a solution that could stave off bad actors and create a secure environment for data. Blockchain is increasingly being considered as the technology that will produce the type of security tools needed by every organization.
Blockchain has the potential to do just that, and that’s why you are seeing the kind of VC investment that you are. Since the technology can already provide consensus, and is by nature immutable, cybersecurity developers are trying to ascertain how to use these properties to improve cyber defense. Industry leaders have identified how blockchain can provide users and systems with confidentiality, integrity, and availability, but haven’t completely figured out the particulars yet. Let’s take a look at what these cybersecurity professionals are doing.
Preventing Cyber Attacks
Hackers have long been a thorn in the side of IT administrators because once they are in, they can shut down networks, tamper and steal data, trick people into handing over sensitive data, assume other people’s identities, and become an overall nuisance to any organization unfortunate enough to be targeted by them. Blockchain presents some pretty stark benefits that cybersecurity professionals have stated could be leveraged to keep bad actors from infiltrating networks and stealing data. Here are a few of them:
- Identity protection: A blockchain enhanced with the integrated Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) can allow IT administrators to remove the central management of the technology by using the inherent properties of blockchain (i.e. its distributed nature) to manage security certificates. By performing key and signature verification of users, it also improves secure network access.
- Infrastructure protection: Remember that attack on the Dyn DNS that left Internet giants like Twitter, Netflix, and PayPal battling hours of downtime? That was caused by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack that took down servers that provide Domain Name Services (DNS) for many major websites. With a blockchain-integrated strategy, DNS information would be distributed in their own nodes, eliminating the threat of a DDoS, as it would be impossible to target an entire chain of nodes.
- Data protection: Nowadays, people are utilizing private key encryption to sign sensitive documents, allowing for party-to-party verification. With blockchain, the process goes the other way. By distributing data across blocks, data integrity is maintained. The technology, called Keyless Signature Structure (KSI), replaces key-based data authentication by distributing information making it general knowledge rather than a secret.
While blockchain may only turn out to be a flash-in-the-pan technology that allowed for cryptocurrency to exist, it may just be one of the most important technologies that has ever been invented. Only time will see how human ingenuity will be able to innovate from the blockchain we have today. If you are looking for more information about blockchain and how it may just be the technology that will bring security to computing networks all over the world, visit our blog on our website today!