A key advantage of blockchain is security. Decentralization, digital signatures, encryption, cryptographic hash functions, and consensus algorithms help blockchain secure data. Naturally, many experts and developers are exploring blockchain in cybersecurity. The following are 6 ways in which blockchain can defend against cybercrimes:
1. Securing IoT networks
IoT can offer transformative benefits, however, it has security vulnerabilities. Data exchanges in IoT systems happen over the Internet. Hackers routinely target IoT systems. Imagine the consequences of a hacked smart power grid, and you can easily understand the importance of securing IoT systems.
IoT experts and developers can use blockchain to secure IoT networks. Immutability, authentication, and encryption offered by blockchain can help considerably. E.g., IoT systems can use a blockchain-based authentication system to allow only trusted parties in the network.
CISCO plans to use blockchain to secure IoT networks. A cybersecurity start-up named Block Armour is using blockchain-powered authentication systems to secure IoT systems.
2. Verifying the integrity of software downloads
Do you know if the software you downloaded from the Internet that day has malware embedded in it? Most of us can’t detect such risks. Cybercriminals take advantage of this. They infect the downloadable version of a software product with malware. Unknowingly, users downloading that software product face risks of cyber-attacks.
Software product vendors can prevent this using blockchain. They can create a cryptographic hash of the software download file. It’s commonly called the “integrity hash”.
Software product vendors can then store the integrity hash on a blockchain network. The immutability offered by blockchain prevents anyone from tampering with it.
Users can check the cryptographic hash of the download file and compare it with the integrity hash stored on the blockchain network. They can download the software product if the hashes match.
A case of mismatch indicates a risk. Hackers might have infected the download file with malware. However, they can’t modify the integrity hash on the blockchain network. That should alert the users.
3. Securing sensitive data with decentralized storage solutions
Hackers routinely try to make off with sensitive data. They can do this since centralized storage solutions store data as one single unit. Cybercriminals need to breach the defenses of one repository only.
Sharder Network, a blockchain start-up offers a decentralized storage platform to mitigate this risk. When users want to store confidential data on this platform, Sharder Network encrypts the data first. The next step involves uploading the data.
Sharder Network then fragments the encrypted data into smaller segments. Following the well-known database practice of “sharding”, these segments are called “shards”. You can think of shards as partitions of a database or file.
Sharder Network has many nodes, i.e., computers on its network. The platform distributes shards to different nodes. Sharder Network keeps track of these shards. Distributing shards to different nodes also ensures that data is available.
This solution poses two challenges to hackers. Firstly, they need to hack multiple nodes to get all the shards. Secondly, they need to assemble the entire data file from the shards. Both are cost-prohibitive exercises. This acts as a deterrent to hackers.
4. Reducing the likelihood of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks
DDoS attacks can cripple the IT network or website of an organization. In this form of cyberattack, cybercriminals send large waves of traffic targeting a website or IT network. The IT network and applications of the organization can’t respond to such persistent waves of heavy traffic.
DDoS attacks are cheap for cybercriminals. They only need to attack one centrally administered IT network or application. Cybersecurity solutions powered by blockchain can this equation.
Blockchain offers decentralization. All nodes of a decentralized blockchain have the entire data of the network. Since all nodes have equal authority, there isn’t a central administrator. Hackers can’t shut such a blockchain network down by shutting one node down. There isn’t a “Single Point of Failure” (SPoF).
IT networks secured by blockchain won’t have a SPoF. Hackers need to send massive waves of traffic to many nodes. They won’t find DDoS attacks financially viable anymore.
5. Securing DNS services
DNS services help Internet users to visit their intended websites. These services translate alphanumeric web addresses into their respective IP addresses.
DNS service providers distribute their DNS servers in various geographic regions around the world. This adds an element of decentralization, however, DNS services aren’t fully decentralized. Administration and redundancy management of DNS services are centralized.
Cybercriminals take advantage of this centralized administration of DNS services. They tamper with the DNS data of websites. This helps cybercriminals divert Internet traffic to servers controlled by them, which facilitates cybercrimes.
DNS service providers can store DNS data on a decentralized blockchain network. The security measures of blockchain prevent tampering with DNS data. Ethereum Name Service (ENS) is a DNS service powered by the Ethereum blockchain.
6. Crowdsourcing information about emerging computer virus-related threats
Cybercriminals keep coming up with new computer viruses. Antivirus providers need to keep themselves up-to-date with all such emerging threats. Only then can they keep their antivirus product up-to-date to deal with the new computer viruses.
OpenAVN is a cybersecurity company providing antivirus solutions. It crowdsources information regarding emerging computer viruses and malware. OpenAVN uses blockchain and smart contracts to gather and organize this information.
A caveat: Challenges exist in using blockchain-based cybersecurity solutions
While blockchain-based cybersecurity solutions have plenty of promises, a few challenges exist. These are as follows:
A. Using a decentralized blockchain to secure IoT systems can be hard
Fully decentralized blockchain networks like Bitcoin provide the best possible security to IoT systems. That’s due to the transaction validation process called “mining”. It uses a computing-intensive consensus algorithm named “Proof of Work” (POW).
The POW algorithm adversely impacts the scalability and performance throughput of the Bitcoin network. Several other blockchain networks provide better scalability and performance throughput. However, they don’t use the POW algorithm. They can’t provide the kind of security that the Bitcoin network offers.
IoT systems can have a very large number of devices. These devices might have less computing power and storage capacity. They might not be able to use a fully decentralized blockchain with the POW algorithm.
B. Decentralized blockchain networks can’t fully meet some of the privacy-related regulations
Cybersecurity solutions need to comply with the applicable privacy regulations. Decentralized blockchain networks like Bitcoin prevent modification and deletion of data. Privacy regulations like GDPR require organizations to provide the ability to modify or delete data. A decentralized blockchain network can’t comply with these regulations.
C. Blockchain development tends to be complex
Blockchain development requires niche skills. Organizations find it hard to hire blockchain developers. The ecosystem of blockchain development tools is still maturing. These factors make blockchain development projects complex.
Blockchain can help in combating cybercrimes in several ways, however, a few challenges need resolutions. Watch this space for exciting news on the cyber security subject.