“Blockchain, it’s an immutable distributed ledger,” is something we’ve all heard from bitcoin enthusiasts time and time again, but what does that really mean? How safe is it? How can we secure tech’s most secure technology?
An immutable distributed ledger sounds complicated but at its core, the idea is simple: blockchain works as a shared record of information that multiple parties reference and can observe any addition made to it.
Any questionable addition to the blockchain will always be recognized by the other holders of the same record. The questionable addition is then compared against the records held by every other party to determine if it was indeed a legitimate addition. If a transaction is legitimate, it is added to the record permanently.
Blockchain was created to be a trustless self-regulating system to facilitate the transparent exchange of information between parties while protecting the privacy of all involved. However, the groundbreaking technology isn’t without vulnerability, one that hackers are already busy exploiting.
For every party to fully trust the information on the blockchain, no single party can have the power to undo an addition to it. The problem comes when hackers use authorized additions to the blockchain as cover to disguise and attach malware aimed at attacking the blockchain from within. If the attachment isn’t recognized before being added to the record, the malware becomes permanently part of the blockchain and impossible to remove.
Big business is already taking advantage of the new technology for everything from supply chain management to internal data storage, often holding some of the organization’s most valuable data and digital assets. Industry experts predict this adoption will increase rapidly in the coming years. Global blockchain spending this year will be double that of last year and is predicted to steadily increase at an average rate of 75 percent per year over the next five years [IDC].
It is important that blockchain technology not follow the same path as the internet in its lack of cybersecurity infrastructure. When Internet use and access became widespread, the rate of technological innovation accelerated alongside it. The technology’s benefits led the public to focus almost exclusively on the positive impacts of the Internet and left the potential negative ramifications unchecked.
It wasn’t until lately that we awoke to data breaches, election meddling and hacks of major institutions. It quickly became clear that we hadn’t paid attention to the other side of technology. Many had been too focused on growth and forgot to protect it. This is what the blockchain revolution is going through now–too many are seeing only solutions and not enough threats.
Permissioned blockchain development is at an all-time high, and it only promises to increase over the years to come. Just as we have learned to fight for security online, so, too, must the blockchain space learn to fight for the protection of their assets as well.
Every hack and data breach on blockchain-based technology collectively hurts confidence in the space, a stigma that has already haunted Bitcoin and cryptocurrency for a while. As new technologies grow and evolve, so, too, must the infrastructure to protect them.