Blockchain and Cybersecurity

Blockchain – an essential tool for efficient cybersecurity?

In February 2020, GridWorks IC, a third-party vendor of the Health Share of Oregon, was the target of a break-in. The burglars stole an employee’s laptop that contained personal and medical information of more than 654,000 members. The data theft exposed confidential information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, social security numbers, and Medicaid IDs.

This incident is just one of countless examples of data breaches that occur due to inadequate security practices. 

Blockchain is one of the newcomers to the field of cybersecurity; however, it holds enormous potential in minimizing the risk of data breaches. Here, we will discuss what blockchain is and its applications in cybersecurity.

What is blockchain?

Blockchain is a digital ledger that records and maintains all transactional information between multiple participants in a network. When a transaction is made, the information detailing it is stored as a “block” of data. Several nodes will verify and confirm if the new data is legitimate before incorporating a new block into the ledger. This block is then connected to blocks that were present before it and the one that forms after it. Groups of transactions are blocked together in an irreversible chronological order, thereby forming a chain. Blockchain employs a cryptographic signature called hash to carry out its operations.

Blockchain-based technology operates on a decentralization model – there is no single organization or individual in control. Instead, secure and synchronized records of transactions are distributed among all participants in a network. This model is known as distributed ledger technology (DLT). As a result, no individual can alter the blockchain without a permanent record of the change being made, making blockchain technology immutable and highly secure.

There are four types of blockchain networks: public, private, consortium, and hybrid blockchains. 

What are the potential applications of blockchain in cybersecurity?

With the exponential increase in data breaches in the last year, efficient cybersecurity tools have become more essential than ever. Blockchain technology has the potential of being a strong cybersecurity solution for the following reasons:

Stronger IoT security 

While IoT devices are a technological asset, they are well known for their security risks and challenges, and are often used as an entry point by threat attackers to launch larger attacks and breach overall systems. Blockchain can be used to secure these devices. Here, the devices can enable security decisions without the requirement of central admin. For example, if a node is found acting suspiciously, it is quickly shut down.

Enhanced DNS security 

Domain name system (DNS) links domain or website names to IP addresses, making it a foundation for the functioning of the internet. However, it is highly centralized, which means that attackers may try to break an established connection by crashing websites or rerouting users to scam websites. Blockchain can prevent this type of attack. Due to its decentralized nature, DNS entries would be distributed and maintained immutably on a ledger, making it quite difficult for threat actors to find a single, vulnerable point of entry.

Reduced risk of DDoS attacks

In a DDoS attack, the intent is to disrupt a server or network’s normal flow of traffic by using spoofed IP addresses to send large packets of data. This high traffic volume overwhelms the target, eventually crashing it. Commonly, compromised IoT devices are used to launch this type of attack. The use of blockchain in these devices greatly enhances their security. Moreover, several blockchain service providers can protect users from DDoS attacks by allowing them to join distributed networks.

Better protection during data transmission 

Data is most vulnerable when in transit, which is why threat actors often attempt to interfere with data when it is being transferred. This is where blockchain’s encryption feature comes in. It prevents any unauthorized users from accessing data, thus, maintaining its security.

Decentralization of data storage

A centralized data storage solution means that a successful cyberattack jeopardizes the safety of all organizational data. Blockchain as a storage solution utilizes decentralization to help organizations securely store their data and protect their digital assets. This, combined with its immutability and transparency, makes it exponentially more difficult for cybercriminals to penetrate into storage systems.

Increased security of private messaging 

Employees are increasingly using instant messaging for work-related communication. These applications collect huge amounts of metadata which is not always stored in the most secure manner. Blockchain would be ideal to combat this as it can create a standard set of security protocols and be used to form a unified API network, thus enabling cross-messenger communication.

There are several sectors that would benefit from the implementation of blockchain technology, especially those that deal with classified, private, and sensitive data – municipal governments, healthcare providers, and educational institutions, to name a few. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that organizations are steadily trying to adopt blockchain into their cybersecurity policies. Research shows that by 2030, blockchain will produce $3.1 trillion in business value.