Thanks to Bitcoin, everyone has heard of blockchain technology — the tamper evident decentralized and distributed ledger behind cryptocurrencies. Beyond the buzz of Bitcoin, more and more people are starting to see the many other possible uses for blockchain technology, including how it factors into the future of cybersecurity.
Because security is built into the very design of blockchain technology, applying it to cybersecurity seems obvious. Ben Dickson, software engineer and founder of TechTalks, has identified at least three fronts where blockchain technology can increase security: “blocking identity theft, preventing data tampering, and stopping Denial of Service attacks.”
The very structure of blockchain is designed to prevent data tampering. And it can prevent identity theft in a similar way.
“Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)… rely on centralized, trusted third party Certificate Authorities (CA) to issue, revoke, and store key pairs for every participant, hackers can compromise them to spoof user identities and crack encrypted communications.” If keys were published on a blockchain, the creation of false keys would be impossible. The distributed nature of the blockchain prevents creating a single point of failure and creates the ability to verify identity or authenticity due to the decentralized and transparent nature of the technology.
According to David Sønstebø, cofounder of IOTA, “By referencing hashes that match identity attributes of an individual tied to the ledger one can start to reconstruct the entire identity management system. The fact that you can tie these attributes of person to a tamper-proof hash makes it impossible for someone to forge your identity.”
Since Denial of Service attacks hinge on there being a single target for hackers to focus on, the distributed nature of blockchain technology avoids the pitfall of creating this single target point. Distributing the DNS across multiple nodes in the network would greatly improve the security of a system and prevent many DDoS attacks.
In addition, Doug Drinkwater, the EMEA content director at IDG, adds that blockchain can secure devices better, improve confidentiality as well as data integrity, and make private messaging more secure.
As many specialists warn, blockchain technology won’t fix everything nor will it make all hacking a thing of the past. Netspective CEO, Shahid Shah, believes that “Because blockchain is more about guaranteeing the integrity of data rather than keeping data private, it’s not likely to reduce data breaches, but it could prevent — or in some cases, eliminate — tampering types of attack. Because blockchain’s immutability and transparency features form solid integrity networks, they can reduce the probability of certain kinds of hacking — especially those that seek to disrupt transactional agreements — because tamperproofing is a key goal.”
Blockchain reduces the likeliness of certain attacks and increases the difficulty of other hacking attempts due to its unique time stamping mechanism, distributed network of nodes, and tamperproof transparency.
Unlike blockchain technology, “most [cybersecurity] tools have been around for a really long time. And newer versions of them are just variations on the theme. They are not drastically new,” says former U.S. government intelligence officer Jason Kichen.
“Blockchain platforms break many of the flaws associated with traditional network security. First, they assume threats from outsiders and insiders. Secondly, they rely on cryptographic data structures instead of failure prone secrets. This in turn offers foundations on which to add security protocols. And lastly, they use algorithmic consensus mechanisms.” Still, blockchain technology won’t solve all cyber security issues, but implementing it will help and could play a key role in the future.