What is the role of blockchain in cybersecurity? Data of all transactions are stored in the form of a block in a blockchain and each of these blocks is linked with the previous block with a connector called the hash.
This forms a continuous chain and hence the name blockchain. Application and use of blockchain is not restricted to cryptocurrencies only, as most people think.
In fact, it is widely used across several industries including supply chains, logistics, automobiles and more.
Blockchain technology typically automates storage of data and ensures data integrity.
The most significant reasons for the popularity of blockchain are its secure, decentralized, and transparent nature.
Such a type of decentralized blockchain may consist of thousands of computers, referred to as nodes, which may be spread across several geographic locations and run by individuals or a group of individuals.
However, for a beginner in this field it may not be easy to understand what role it plays in this particular aspect which is why this article will be helpful to them.
The knowledge they will gather from this article will ensure that they do not take things lying down or simply by the words.
What is the Role of Blockchain in Cybersecurity?
As said earlier, data security and integrity are ensured by blockchain but to understand its role in a better way, you will need to know other related aspects of it.
This includes the stats and trends of crypto attacks, its future and features along with the features and uses of blockchain and comparing them.
With each passing day, the amount of data generated is increasing rapidly, thanks to the continual development and more refined technologies coming to the fore.
This has ensured better security for data.
The most significant characteristic feature of the decentralized blockchain network is that it is immutable.
This means that the transaction details once recorded cannot be reversed.
It is this immutable and decentralized nature of the blockchain that makes it an ideal solution for cyber security.
However, a blockchain can be both decentralized and centralized.
The decentralized blockchain networks are not owned by a single entity but by a number of users who have collective control over its operation.
On the other hand, looking at the flipside, such technological developments have also allowed the hackers to find newer and better ways to get into systems and steal data, information, and money.
They are implementing new techniques and better technologies to carry out cybercrime.
If you go through the stats on cyber security you will know the trends and the ways cyber attacks are increasing.
This will help in better understanding. Several survey reports and stats reveal that human error causes about 95% of data breaches.
For a detailed study, here are a few facts revealed through a survey conducted a couple of years back.
This will give you a clear idea on what to expect today and in the years to come.
The report says that:
- There were about 35 billion incidents regarding data breaches recorded in the first half of 2020
- Out of these recorded data breaches, 45% were results of hacking, 22% for phishing, and 17% due to malware
- More than 90% of malware was delivered via email
- Most significant disguise for malware distribution is fake invoices
- Over 200,000 samples of malware were produced every day
- It took more than a week for 34% of businesses hit with such malware to regain access over their data and
- Ransomware caused damages worth more than $75 billion annually to the businesses.
At the above rate and trend, the cost of damages due to cyber crime was estimated to be nearly $6 trillion annually in 2021, and every year all the figures above are expected to change significantly.
Based on these facts, it is expected that almost half of all the incidents of data breaches happening all over the globe will happen in the United States by 2023.
All these are quite alarming revelations which indicate that cyber attacks will continue to plague the industry sector that uses blockchain technology whether it is crypto or any other.
And, if you take a look at the future prospects of cyber attacks, once again technological development will pave its path to carry out more severe attacks.
For example, with the 5G networks rolled out, the download speeds now have increased significantly.
This has created more opportunities for the hackers to exploit the security inefficiencies and with faster download speeds it will encourage them to carry out larger cyber crimes.
Therefore, weak or patchy security measures will expose devices to even further risks of cyber attacks by the miscreants especially when the world is now connected through the Internet of Things or IoT devices.
This is where the blockchain technology comes into the scene and can prove a lot of help.
However, before looking at how it can help, take a look at the respective features of blockchain and cyber security.
Cyber security, typically, refers to the process of protecting devices and networks from digital attacks.
These attacks are made by hackers and other cyber criminals with an objective to access, steal, modify, or destroy digital info.
Most of the time, these attacks are carried out to extract sensitive data and even money.
There are several different ways in which cyber attacks can be carried out.
Some of the most familiar types of cyber attacks are:
- Distributed Denial of Service or DDoS
- Man in a Middle or MITM
- Ransomware and
- SQL injection.
The cyber criminals typically use different types of malicious software, commonly referred to as malware such as viruses, Trojans, and more.
Therefore, it is very important to strengthen security measures now that the world relies on technology increasingly to store data to protect the devices, data, and transactions.
However, for that you will need to know the features of cyber security in the first place. These are:
- Data backup
- Data correction codes
- Access control
- Implementing Firewalls
- Measures to control system vulnerabilities
- Understanding malware
- Cryptographic checksums
- Assess risks and threats
- Use of Intrusion Detection Systems
- Use of Intrusion Prevention Systems.
Blockchain, as said earlier, is a shared and decentralized digital ledger that stores information and makes them available to others.
Some of the other notable features of blockchain are:
- Smart contracts
- Identity management
- Access management
- P2P network
- Decentralized consensus systems
- Cryptographic key pair
- No need for a central authority third-party involvement
- Enhanced security and
- Traceability of transactions.
The features and nature of blockchain will help a lot in ensuring that your system and network are well protected against cyber attacks.
More Than Crypto
Though blockchain and crypto became largely synonymous in public parlance when it was used for making Bitcoin transactions about a decade ago, it actually is more than just crypto.
There are lots of supplementary applications of it largely due to the Ethereum network that has emerged as the go-to platform for a wide range of use cases over and above simple crypto transactions.
These use cases include and are not limited to:
- Smart contracts
- Decentralized Finance which is commonly known as DeFi
- Distributed software and
- NFS or Non-Fungible Tokens.
The trustless, decentralized and consensus-based nature of blockchain typically makes it quite resilient to cyber attacks.
This is because the blockchain solutions typically utilize Proof of Work or PoW consensus mechanism for validating transactions made on the chain.
This means that the hackers will have to gain access and control of more than half of the computers, or nodes, which makes the entire network, to disrupt ledger transactions.
This, literally speaking, is quite an expensive affair computationally due to this specific design.
As for the networks, it is this factor that can be put to other kinds of operations for ensuring security.
This reduces the need of a trusted third party of central authority for the blockchain to operate.
A few examples will make things clearer to you.
For example, in the case of DDoS attacks, the hackers usually exploit the internet DNS or Domain Name Servers.
These servers typically map the IP addresses to decipherable website names.
When this DNS is moved to a blockchain network it will spread the resources to the multiple nodes participating in it.
This will virtually make it infeasible and impossible for the attackers to gain control over the database.
However, the hackers are unrelenting and therefore are formidable challengers to the governments engaged increasingly in cyber warfare.
Therefore, it is not enough to just build databases or apps on blockchain.
This will not make them invulnerable. It will need to do something much more than that.
One possible way is to build blockchain networks Artificial Intelligence or AI.
This will enhance the ability of the blockchain to identify and even prevent despicable manipulation of data.
Moreover, another good thing about such AI based blockchain is that it will secure the database and a system and can be executed on a more distributed model as a blockchain app will not need trusted nodes to be intact.
Typically, the world needs to think about blockchain as something that is much more than crypto and move towards a decentralized future.
This is because ransomware attacks, DDoS, social media phishing, data breaches, and direct crypto mining attacks are all increasing at a rapid pace every day.
This is costing the victims hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
The governments, general public and the private organizations are all worried about the rising frequency, size, sophistication, and the financial consequences of cyber attacks.
It is therefore required to look for better ways to prevent such threats that are continuously evolving.
There seems to be an asymmetric warfare going on between the governments and the hackers in the very essence of it.
The fact that the hackers are quite well-distributed in terms of the targets asks for decentralizing applications and assets and securing the security of the infrastructure.
This can be achieved by using blockchain. It is the features and nature of blockchain that may make it possible to fight the hackers on their provisos and defeat them in their own game.
Time to Rethink
Therefore, with all the things said, it is surely the time to rethink about the strategy to ensure cyber security and one of the most feasible ways it seems is to use blockchain technology for that.
Stats show that cyber security spending has risen significantly in the past decade and it is showing no signs of slowing down.
According to an industry report, cyber security spending worldwide has been over $1 trillion between 2017 and 2021 by the organizations to protect their data against online threats.
Still, in spite of this astounding investment in cyber security, the hackers are able to successfully exploit the vulnerabilities that are publicly known or unknown.
They can successfully intercept devices, applications, and network communications even today.
Another industry report showed that the number of cyber attacks and cost have both increased significantly with respect to an old report that suggested nearly 6 billion private files were stolen.
The improved hacking techniques followed by the bad actors often outsmart the traditional security methods which include and are not limited to:
- Key management and
- Privacy challenges.
The cyber attack possibilities and vulnerabilities are rising even further and in new ways after a huge percentage of employees started working from their homes due to the lockdown after the coronavirus pandemic.
This compelled the businesses to think about tackling the problem in a different way.
This is by focusing on the methods that produced these weaknesses in the first place rather than building more potent tools.
An entirely new approach needs to be taken when it comes to cyber security by using blockchain.
This technology will ensure greater security by offering a completely different path which is less hospitable and not taken by the cyber criminals.
This new approach will help in a number ways such as by:
- Reducing vulnerabilities
- Providing stronger encryption
- Verifying data ownership more effectively and
- Ensuring integrity.
It is believed that blockchain technology will even eliminate the need to use passwords in some cases which is often described and considered as the weakest link in cyber security.
The main advantage of using blockchain is that the distributed ledger and the dispersed public key infrastructure model will reduce the risks related to centralized storage of data because it will eliminate the most palpable targets.
It will also ensure that if there are no vulnerabilities in the platform, the attackers will not be able to steal, tamper, or compromise transaction data.
This is because these will be recorded in each of the multiple nodes participating in the particular blockchain network.
This will eliminate the chances of the attackers fooling the system because they might fool one but not all of the nodes.
This is because the collaborative Proof of Work consensus algorithm will not allow them to do that.
It will keep a careful watch on anomalies, malicious actions, and false positives and for that it will not need any central authority.
This will eventually strengthen authentication and secure record management and data communications.
Blockchain happens to contain one of the most efficient tools for ensuring cyber security – encryption.
Through this feature, digital signatures, and public key infrastructure, a blockchain can do a lot of things such as:
- Securing communication
- Authenticating devices
- Validating changes made in the configuration and
- Discovering private devices in an IoT or Internet of Things ecosystem.
Blockchain can also prove to be an effective weapon to fight against DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service attacks.
When a blockchain based DNS is used it will prevent such attacks from happening from one single point.
However, it is not easy to implement blockchain in the systems to ensure cyber security because it comes with its own challenges that you need to overcome which is why it is still an evolving approach.
Other than that, not all business needs may align with it because research ideas, decentralized storage, digital identities, securing end-point devices, and smart contracts may vary from one business to another.
All these need careful consideration or else intertwining blockchain with cyber security will be impractical, if not impossible, and ineffective.
Here are some of the obstacles that you should know and overcome while implementing blockchain as a part of your cyber security strategy.
Data privacy: Since blockchain is transparent and distributed, everyone can view data.
This can be a concern for some businesses that do not want to share all data and info with the public.
However, permissioned or enterprise blockchain can mitigate such privacy issues to a significant extent.
Scalability: This can be another significant constraint while implementing blockchain in cyber security.
This is due to the block response time and size.
When it increases it becomes quite difficult to accommodate an increasing number of transactions on the chain.
It will slow down the validation process even further if storage and computing resources are limited.
Regulations: The complexity of the structure of blockchain may not fit well within the regulatory and compliance landscape with the evolving data privacy aspect kept in mind.
Since users cannot purge data on a blockchain the technology may at times run into the risk of violating government regulations.
Interoperability: Weak interoperability will result in lower scalability as well. Several blockchain platforms use diverse ecosystems to run transaction schemes, smart contract logic, and consensus models.
These needs along with factors like communication mistrust, erroneous platform configuration, specification errors in app development and cross-chain smart contract logic can cause significant problems.
However, in spite of the challenges, organizations have been using blockchain for ensuring security and protection of their data in different forms and ways.
Some of the most significant use cases of blockchain for cyber security are:
There is an increased use of IoT and AI all over the world today and security of these systems and the data stored in them are always a big concern. Using blockchain ensures device-to-device encryption.
This further assures more improved security for communication, key management, and authentication that enhances cyber security in the IoT systems.
Software and app downloads are very common today but to run the system properly and prevent them from malware attacks, specific software should be downloaded.
Now all of them may not be reliable or safe to download and use. Using blockchain can verify the updates and legitimacy of the installers by comparing the hashes with new software identities.
This will prevent malware from infecting the systems ensuring integrity of the software.
While transmitting data from one device to another using the internet, ultimate precaution must be taken.
Using blockchain and encryption will prevent anyone from accessing the data illegally during transit because it will be hash protected and encrypted.
There is a huge amount of data generated everyday and it is critical to store them safely. This will need a lot of storage space as well.
Well, using blockchain will allow decentralized storing of critical data which will be distributed across nodes.
This will reduce the space needed for storing and at the same time will protect the digital info.
Mitigating DDoS attacks:
DDoS happens to be one of the most popular types of cyber attacks today. In this process the hackers generate an overflow of internet traffic.
This disrupts the flow of services. Once again, using blockchain will prove to be a much more effective solution for such attacks due to its immutability and cryptographic properties.
As you may know, the Domain Name System or DNS is very much like the public directory that connects IP addresses with domain names.
Hackers can try to access the DNS and exploit the links. This may result in crashing of the sites.
The decentralized and immutability properties of blockchain will once again prove to be an effective solution to prevent such things from happening thereby increasing cyber security.
Application in Cybersecurity
To be very specific about the application of blockchain in cyber security, the CIA or the Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability triad model is referred to while assessing the security model of a business.
According to this triad model, the application of cyber security is required to satisfy the three basic policies. These are:
This policy of the triad model ensures that only authorized and interested users can access the data.
This is actually ensured by the full encryption of data by the blockchain that prevents unauthorized access when data is transmitted through un-trusted networks.
To achieve this, access controls and other appropriate security measures should be directly implemented at the application level so that no one can attack from within the network.
The public key infrastructure of blockchain will ensure advanced security measures to verify parties as well as encrypt the communication at the same time.
However, there is a significant risk of theft of the backup secondary storage of these private keys.
In order to mitigate this risk, cryptographic algorithms, IETF or Internet Engineering Task Force, RFC or Request for Comments and other key management measures must be implemented depending on the integer factorization tribulations.
The inherent features such as traceability and immutability of blockchain may help businesses to ensure data integrity.
Add to that, the consensus model protocols may also help them a lot in implementing mechanisms that will control and prevent ledger splitting if there is a 51% attack.
Blockchain technology ensures that the earlier position of the structure is stored with each new iteration.
This will ensure that a history log that is fully traceable is available.
Smart contracts can also be used here in order to confirm and enforce the rules between the parties. This will prevent miners from mining the blocks of data.
With DDoS being common, cyber attacks on technology services have increased manifold in recent times.
However, such attacks are costly on blockchain-based systems because the hacker has to overpower the network by making a large number of small transactions.
Since the DDoS attacks are usually IP based and the blockchain networks do not have any single point of failure, it reduces the chances of such attacks and prevents the likelihood of normal operation being disrupted.
It makes the systems and the networks much more resilient due to the combination of distributed operation and multiple nodes that assure data is available and accessible in full copies at various nodes of the ledger at all times.
Pros and Cons
Here are a few pros and cons of using blockchain for cyber security which is good to know to make your knowledge more comprehensive.
- User confidentiality is maintained by the public key cryptography
- Data traceability is assured by maintaining the history of all transactions
- Data transparency is ensured because all transactions are digitally signed
- Secure data processing and storage is ensured by the immutable feature of blockchain
- Decentralized nature ensures no single point failure can affect the entire network
- Authentication of data through the Public Key Infrastructure or PKI ensure safe data transfer
- Selective access to information, data, and transaction ensures data protection and privacy and
- Smart contract security offers better confidence among the parties involved.
- Too much dependence on private keys which cannot be recovered when lost
- Scalability and adaptability issues due to transaction per second limitation and preset block volume
- High cost of operation due to high storage and computing needs
- Lack of regulations and frameworks results in inferior governance
- Blockchain literacy is required due to complex programming languages and development and other tools
- Chances of significant technology risks to cyber security if not managed properly
- Improper access control and key management
- Chances of chain split attacks and unintended forks during upgrading smart contracts
- Insufficient encryption scheme choice may lead to MITM attacks
- Chances of insecure operations due to incorrect or weak keys and management errors
- Chances of incorrect cryptographic implementation due to inappropriate digital signature or certificate verification
- Need for a third party for API integration
So, looking at both the pros and cons you now know why use of blockchain in cyber security is happening in fringe areas as of now.
However, over time, things will surely change.
The Role Played
Blockchain plays an important role in establishing cyber security and there are lots of ways in which this innovative technology can fortify it.
These ways are over and above those mentioned above such as:
- Decentralizing DNS entries
- Preventing DDoS attacks
- Verifying installers, firmware, software updates and patches and
- Preventing unauthorized access of data during transit by using encryption.
Today, a lot of different social media platforms are used and not all of them are protected by strong and reliable passwords.
While interacting through these social media platforms, a huge amount of metadata is collected. If the hackers gain access to it, it can really create havoc.
By using blockchain technology a standard security protocol can be developed around them.
This will prove to be a much more suitable substitute for end-to-end encryption.
A unified API or Application Programming Interface framework can also be built to protect private messaging and enhance cross-messenger communication competence.
Also, there are lots of IoT devices used in smart homes like smart switches.
If these devices come with weak security measures, the hackers will have access to the overall home automation systems.
Blockchain technology will decentralize the administration of these systems and secure every single device of the entire system.
Therefore with the highest level of data integrity and transparency offered, blockchain technology can go a long way to provide better cyber security and fight against cyber crime eliminating chances of human error.
Blockchain can not only facilitate making financial transactions quickly and safely but can also help in other fields in the industry including cyber security.
Through this article you must have come to know how exactly it can do so and its several use cases.