How can blockchain help against cyber attacks?
Blockchain is on everyone’s lips. It promises a renewal of banking systems and seduces thanks to its offer all in security and transparency. Apart from banks, other sectors are tempted by the adoption of the blockchain to adorn themselves with new protection, which could in particular counter cyberattacks. It is this aspect of the blockchain that is the focus of all attention. It is therefore logical to see that in order to arm ever more vulnerable protection systems more effectively, blockchain is enchanting in many areas peripheral to the bank.
Cybersecurity: one of the biggest challenges for societies at the end of the decade
The security of computer systems is weakened by attacks that are increasingly sophisticated, malignant and difficult to trace. The blockchain can in these cases play a decisive role by creating a bridge between systems which, for multiple reasons, would have reasons not to trust each other completely. It can help prevent attacks and other cyber spies intrusive to systems, and thus allow for transparency never before achieved.
Mainly used by banks, which praise it for its traceability and meticulous identification functions, blockchain is not a miracle solution but a technology capable of helping to carry out certain precise tasks. Security problems that have occurred previously in a computer system cannot be resolved by the blockchain because the latter has not “recorded” the previous external manipulations. An attack or intrusion that occurs without warning can modify source files. Intrusion traces are easily erased with conventional IT protection. With the implementation of a very robust blockchain system, this type of manipulation then becomes very difficult. Erasing traces within an environment that communicates thanks to the blockchain is very complicated because everything becomes traceable, even the actions considered as the most insignificant. Any anomaly or attack can be detected very quickly. The blockchain then brings real innovation. Many cyber attacks are detected after the fact. As companies increasingly opt for solutions that detect intrusions in real time, are these so-called solutions able to push the process further and trace intrusions, attacks, system changes and prevent these compromising traces? do not disappear?
In an overworked environment of connected objects, doubt is allowed. Starting from the premise that the links established through cables, wifi or even Bluetooth are gargantuan, the authenticity of each connection entering a computer system can obviously not be constantly verified. Companies are aware of this and 43% of business leaders plan to focus their investment on the security of connected objects first.
What the blockchain brings is a sharper examination based on the validity of connection information, and the ability to prevent if data or the computer system itself undergoes modification attempts. It is still possible to carry out this type of control with so-called conventional systems, but with what reliability? Blockchain, on the contrary, makes it almost impossible to change or modify an event or an action taken in the past, simply because this technology is based on permanent traceability. The blockchain keeps track of all actions taken even the smallest.
Application of blockchain for cybersecurity as a tool of trust
To understand intelligibly the benefits of a blockchain for a more secure computing environment against cyberattacks, we must imagine that the blockchain works like a photograph. It keeps track of every action, every modification and every connection produced in its environment. Retrospective consultation and verification are unstoppable weapons against cyberattacks. Because blockchain is above all a very efficient collective data technology, in addition to being an extremely well secured system; much more than we imagine. It is again very complicated to manipulate data within a well-designed blockchain system. It is also difficult to hide the evidence that an attack has occurred with the blockchain, its role of validating incoming data may be an additional option.
Human validation makes it possible to prohibit actions taken if they are considered dangerous. Even if an intrusion can occur, hackers will have little chance to make changes without being spotted and identified. To make a blockchain system ever more secure in the eyes of certain refractories, the establishment of a private blockchain system can strengthen this essential part of trust that would be lacking. Only authorized connections are possible. Levels of involvement for each stakeholder then guarantee the viability of a highly secure system.
Not neglecting this element of trust in ever more complex systems is also one of the steps to arm yourself effectively in terms of cybersecurity. Creating this point of trust around the blockchain helps legitimize it. Also taking into consideration that computer attacks are of human origin, cybersecurity must involve human intelligence in the proper functioning of the blockchain.
At the electoral level, for example, suspicions of cheating and fraud are more and more numerous. The benefits of Blockchain in these cases can be beneficial. The test has already been carried out by a Danish political party which in 2014 used a blockchain system for an internal meeting including a vote of their activists. In order to strengthen the democratic electoral system, this restores confidence to voters who will then see how their vote is taken into account thanks to completely transparent traceability. Recently the US defense has reportedly started examining the integration of the blockchain to protect some of their ultra-sensitive data. Because it is true that correctly applied, the blockchain can have great results in many areas.
Peter Loop is Associate Vice President at Infosys.
Lúí Smyth is Head of Blockchain Research & Ecosystem Engagement at EdgeVerve / Infosys.