Just how secure is blockchain?

Blockchain can’t keep out of the news at the moment, as vendors promise it will power the next-generation of IT security and services. In reality, the technology is still just taking baby-steps into the wider world beyond Bitcoin, where weaknesses have been brutally exposed in high-profile thefts. But when Blockchain does arrive, your business can use it securely, if you take the right precautions.

Blockchain is the generic name for online distributed ledgers that form the basis of a secure transaction technology. The ledgers are stored across many hundreds or thousands of machines making it very hard to perform fraudulent tasks. Cryptography stops hackers from spying on the data as it crosses networks and other measures in each product help protect transactions and make it useful for a particular market.

Famous for being the underpinning system for cryptocurrencies, it is making its way into business and industry. Current uses include supply chain, helping track goods and disrupt counterfeiters, and in legal and financial record keeping. But many more uses are on the horizon.

Just how secure is secure?

While the vendor’s hype machine bills blockchain as secure and safe, it relies on Internet technology, people keeping records and other weak links that a determined or lucky criminal can use to gain access to information or corrupt records. Any new technology will have flaws, so smart home cameras were easy to hack a couple of years back, and smart city infrastructure will be a key target, even as blockchain plays a role in security it.

At its worst, any blockchain service that stores data somewhere can easily be robbed, as we’ve seen with the many Bitcoin heists. That’s not blockchain’s fault, purely the fact that data, records or currency always has to be stored somewhere. And where there is a weakness, we will find someone willing to exploit it.

Then there’s the size and complexity of the blockchain. For a start, these slow down the transactions, which is why some Bitcoin or other crypto-based trades take days not seconds, which is no good for a retail business. Suitably powered services will be faster, but the complexity of the math involved will always create some lag, especially when slower devices like lower-end smartphones or Internet of Things devices are involved.

Finally, we all face the usual internet perils, these are beyond the control of any blockchain system using public servers or data pipes. Most blockchain products link a series of companies together in partnership, so if one has a weakness, no matter how secure the rest, it could be compromised.

Also, server and OS insecurity, backdoor trojans, human error, phishing scams and all the other hacker tools can impact a blockchain operation, no matter how internally secure it is. So, while blockchain will be “secure” it is unlikely to ever be completely bombproof.

Nothing can stop Blockchain

Despite these worries, nothing will stop blockchain become the ledger of choice for a huge range of vertical markets, businesses and services. That’s despite the media fallout from every outage or theft. It will also survive development and political trends around the world that develop as it becomes more popular and different use cases are found.

Some governments will ban variations if it keeps social media encrypted, While others will want only their approved versions (that their spies can monitor). It’s all the usual fun and games when any new technology arrives. Whatever the doom mongers say, we survived MP3, cloud, online banking, and many other disruptive technologies that are now commonplace.

Get ready for blockchain with strong IT

Regardless of all the wider hype, blockchain services are coming, and will impact your business soon. Whatever network or product you choose, or install as part of a larger service, ensuring you have sufficient network and data security will be a key part of protecting your end of the blockchain system.

When it comes to using blockchain, data and business security begins at the network architecture level. Any blockchain network requires a suitable number of nodes, with a strong level-of-control over nodes, plus the ability to lose, recover and add new nodes in a way that doesn’t interrupt the flow of business.

When the network is operational, control over permissions and transaction management will differ between private blockchains and their public equivalents. Ensuring your system is fast enough for business use, but secure and robust enough to verify transactions is a key decision.

KokoBo can ensure your business systems and data are secure, and will be able to provide the latest advice on security issues and weaknesses that might be a problem. When it comes to blockchain, the complexity involved means that many companies might not be able to set it up securely, and we will be able to assist with that.

Why should you care about your business data

Data is everywhere and can move at the speed of light, making it the most valuable resource for many businesses. However, your company data and the devices on which it lives need to be protected and secured to ensure your business safety.

In under 25 years, computer data has gone from something that rarely left the floppy disc or hard drive it was written to, to an almost living entity, updated by a range of roles, accessible by many people, searchable and actionable by a growing number of digital services and capable of moving around the world in a heartbeat. Typical network speeds have moved on from 3.7mbits per second in 2013 to 20.4mbps today and will double to over 40mbps by 2020.

In that time, data has become more valuable than gold, rare earth materials, and through the likes of Bitcoin, even data has grown its own innate value. While the increase in flexibility has created huge benefits including the knowledge economy, distributed businesses and cloud computing.

By the end of the decade, a third of all information will travel online but only 0.5% of all data is ever actually used! There will be over six billion smartphones on the planet and by 2021, Annual global IP traffic will reach 3.3 Zettabytes, driven by video on demand and mobile data, up from 1.4ZB this year.

But, what is data?

All of this information flying around comes in many forms. Some of it is relatively static, such as Word files being passed by email. But more and more data is dynamic like the information from an Internet weather station that changes every few minutes, or the progress of your Amazon order, tracked by GPS in the delivery van.

Photos, video and music files make up a large proportion of all the data flying around the web. Everytime your smartphone takes a photo, they usually head straight to cloud storage. Photos have gone from being 300K in size from the early digital camera models to 8MB or larger in size, and the higher quality HD video flows at around 20 mbps for your Netflix or Amazon viewing.

The Speed Reader’s Guide to Data Growth

Back in the early days of office computing, from the early PCs, data lived solely where you left it. It remained aloof from the world, where your spreadsheet, word processor document or database file was a discrete entity. People came to the computer to see the data, change and update it all within that office.

In around 30 years we’ve moved from 320K to 1.4MB floppy discs, from 20MB hard drives to 5TB hard drives, from 128MB memory cards in 2005 to 128GB and beyond in 2017.

With the rise of networking, the data in those files could be shared among computers in a company, allowing other people to see what was going on without relying on printouts, that rapidly went out of date. Data from multiple stores or businesses could be compiled into larger datasets, helping create more efficient companies. Wireless networks mean that any device can talk to any other, complicating matters further.

With the rise of searchable data, from the likes of Windows Vista and server operating systems, people could find information in files they new nothing about. Keywords help classify documents and enabled a business to understand how much data it had and where it was kept. The information economy evolved from these advances, creating business that focused on the numbers, creating Just-In-Time ordering, delivery, created better schedules and monitored worker efficiency more closely.

The rise of cloud, Internet and mobile data, allows files to be accessed, created and shared with anyone, anywhere. While businesses treat data like gold, people treat it like candy, creating a huge disparity in how an organisation plans to manage data, and how people really feel about it.

The data within a business has a wide footprint, and workers need to be cautious about how they share that information. However, in the mobile era, every month sees a new type of weakness or threat that creates all kinds of risks to the business that users might not know about.

Business and personal data has never been more valuable, which is why it must be guarded like gold by a company. Doing so in the face of easier transport and greater bandwidth is challenging, and with hackers so keen on stealing it, regardless of the company it actually comes from, your IT needs to be up to the job.

Securing Your Data Today

The simplest form of data theft is still someone emailing a document to someone they shouldn’t or leaving files on an unprotected server or cloud storage. Then there’s leaving weaknesses in routers, servers, operating systems or people visiting malware sites that can hijack computers.

Add in servers, cloud services, endpoint management and every business will have its handful managing data, which is why our business can provide complete, custom and professional support to help protect your company and its data.