The blockchain cyber security revolution

 EPA/VALERIE KUYPERS

A customer uses a bitcoin ATM in a restaurant in The Hague, The Netherlands.

The blockchain cyber security revolution


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The IT Community is discussing how to improve the level of protection for business and agencies data from external intrusion aiming to snatch business practices or steal private information. The blockchain system, developed in the last decade and originally applied to cryptocurrency, could prove to be a powerful defensive weapon in their arsenal to increase data encryption and database security, writes James Wilson.

The massive use of the Internet in daily life has raised concerns about data protection: businesses and agencies constantly need to secure their operations against the omnipresent threat of cyber-attacks. According to IT specialists, the safety of a system should be guaranteed in a double bottom-up and top-down process. On the one hand, the bottom-up process envisages that every employee of a company or institution makes a constant data back-up and constantly verifies that his own devices are protected against malwares, so that the whole company benefits from a higher barrier against intrusions. 

On the other hand, the top-down process ensures that companies and agencies install and maintain both networks and databases provided with effective safety tools tested by IT professionals. Data security experts agree that although network security remains a problem to be solved, the core focus of the protection against vulnerability should be the protection of the business data. As the goal of cyber-attacks is the unveiling of confidential information to disclose them to the public, IT specialists argue that the only reliable security strategy is to secure the information itself, more than protecting the network or the general IT Infrastructure. This led to a shift from software products that are conceived to shield corporations from external attacks, to products designed for raising protective barriers around data assets. IT professionals are now focusing on developing new solutions aimed at both database security and data encryption, and one of the most revolutionary models that has come out of this paradigm shift is the innovative blockchain system.

The blockchain system is a distributed database that guarantees the 100% protection of stored data against any attempt to tamper with or revise it.

The blockchain system, as its name suggests, works as a series of blocks in which the data are stored. A first advantage of this is that the blocks are bound through complicated algorithms to form an inextricable chain that resists external intrusion by hackers: this is due to the fact that whereas most other protection systems rely on the username-password dynamic, with the blockchain system the identified and data assets inserted in the blocks are protected by cryptographic technology, which constitutes a major hindrance for any attempt to decipher information.

A further benefit of the blockchain is the decentralisation of data. In the blockchain system, safety is not centred in the server, but it is included in each computer forming a part of the chain. Therefore, the chain puts in place a complex sequence of checks and balances that verify any modification inserted in the system and guarantees the integrity of the data assets. If the blockchain is attacked by hackers, the sequence of encrypted algorithms rejects any threat and correctly restores any data that may have been targeted by the intrusion.

The blockchain was first conceived in 2008 and was integrated for the first time in 2009 in connection with the bitcoin to protect the actions of single clients. Through the blockchain, every recognised client would be allowed to connect to the network, to operate new transactions, and with every access he would create a new block of information which would be tied to the chain. Since then, the blockchain has extended its field of application to other cryptocurrencies such as BlackCoin, Dash, Nxt and Ripple – and has been applied to other platforms.

For the future, this technological model could still be integrated into several other fields, since protection of data is now at the top of the agenda for companies and institutions. For example in the health sector, it could help guarantee the safe transmission of patients’ records; in government activities it could prevent election fraud by protecting the databases in which citizens’ votes are registered.

In the sports world, it can prevent cracking of data, as happened in the recent World Anti-Doping Agency and US Anti-Doping Agency hacking scandals, by ensuring that hackers are denied access to athletes’ medical records and private email exchanges. Through the incoming development of the blockchain, the IT community now has an innovative tool to further improve data encryption and database security and to keep one step ahead of cyber criminals.

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