Many see Blockchain as more than merely the enabling technology for cryptocurrency. It is regarded as a bona fide platform that can deliver an entire spectrum of secure applications to disrupt entire industries.
But while it promises to protect our data in ways that are more secure than ever before, does a threat lie hidden within it, ready to be exploited by those whose intentions are questionable, at best? Is Blockchain a boon to cybersecurity, or can it be used to commit cybercrime? Let’s take a closer look.
The Next Big Thing
First off, let’s talk about the possibilities Blockchain brings to the table. First and foremost, the technology provides a reasonable level of protection against fraud. Its heavily encrypted data and distributed ledger implementation are solid enough to deter common attempts like pharming, botnets, injecting malware and other such exploits. It’s just too much trouble and too much work for hackers. No wonder both government agencies and the private sector have begun adopting it to protect against such attacks.
Let’s take the US military, for example. The organization has become increasingly dependent on digital technologies, which has raised concerns over the security of data transmitted through its communication systems and supply chains. As a result, they are now looking at Blockchain to defend critical systems that may be vulnerable to cyber attacks, including battlefield communication, automated weapons, robotic weaponry and logistics, and supply chain management.
In the midst of battle, for instance, soldiers must be 100% certain that the information they receive is accurate. Centralized communication systems, however, run the risk of being compromised by attacks. Blockchain can create a secure and redundant communications network that continues working even when one or more nodes are compromised. This is particularly important to validate the chain of commands, confirmations, and approvals for missile strikes.
Another example is military logistics, which involves coordinating hundreds of elements. This means there are as many points of failure as there are components to the system. And each one is a vulnerability that can be exploited by threat actors. Blockchain can neutralize the danger by providing a single source of information that can be validated with almost absolute certainty.
Blockchain’s capabilities surely sound great, and its proponents have no doubts about the technology’s potential. So have we found a silver bullet?
The Other Side of the (Bit)Coin
Unfortunately, for all its vaunted security features, the technology is not foolproof. Ironically, the very same advantages that make Blockchain interesting to legitimate industry practitioners also attract those with malicious intentions. Cybercriminals do not even need to attack the system. They actually employ it to carry out their criminal activities.
Cryptocurrency, for example, has called the attention of law enforcers for providing money launderers with a convenient way to do their thing. Its Blockchain foundation lacks regulations to govern transactions, assures anonymity, and makes it easy to transfer monetary value across borders. It’s every money launderer’s dream.
Cybercriminals are also exploiting the usefulness of Blockchain domain name systems (DNS) to carry out their dastardly deeds. Traditional top-level domains (TLDs) such as .com, .net, and .org are controlled by a central authority, or by designated regional authorities. Since a Blockchain DNS is decentralized, there is no single authority to govern over its current generation of TLDs — .bit, .lib, .coin, .bazar, to name a few. This makes them subject to abuse by unscrupulous persons and is a challenge for law enforcers to perform site takedowns.
So Is Blockchain a Weapon?
At this point in time, it’s clear that Blockchain is neither good nor bad. It’s a tool that does what it has been designed to do. If it remains under the control of well-intentioned people who use it for what it was built for, then it has the potential to keep transactions safe and fair for all stakeholders.
However, anything can be a weapon in the hands of someone with a good imagination and malicious ends in mind. This means that Blockchain can definitely be used for illicit activities.
About the Author
Alexandre Francois is a serial entrepreneur and tech enthusiast who believes that knowledge about innovations and emerging technologies should be easily understandable and available to everyone. Walking the talking, he is also the publishing director of Techslang — a tech awareness resource where cybersecurity and IT is explained in plain English.
- Hakin9 is a monthly magazine dedicated to hacking and cybersecurity. In every edition, we try to focus on different approaches to show various techniques - defensive and offensive. This knowledge will help you understand how most popular attacks are performed and how to protect your data from them. Our tutorials, case studies and online courses will prepare you for the upcoming, potential threats in the cyber security world. We collaborate with many individuals and universities and public institutions, but also with companies such as Xento Systems, CATO Networks, EY, CIPHER Intelligence LAB, redBorder, TSG, and others.
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