The era of the Internet of Things (IoT) is here, bringing with it a host of ‘futuristic’ functionality, from fully smart buildings which can be monitored and controlled through a single handheld device, to smart health devices which can detect signs of illness and enable earlier diagnosis faster than ever before. However, this is not the future; it’s happening right now and we need to be prepared for it. Together, with the rising digitalisation of the world around us, the risk of security breaches and digital intrusions into our networks and businesses, also increases. Thus, companies have recently started to investigate the use of blockchain as a deterrent against intrusion.
In order to be prepared and meet the risk head on, organisations need to look for innovative ways to prevent this intrusion. Traditional firewalls and intrusion detection and prevention systems, while effective on a smaller scale, simply won’t cut it in a world where everything is smart and, therefore, susceptible to breach.
Next-generation technology calls for next-generation security. Another exciting – although not that new – technology has emerged to answer this need: the blockchain. The blockchain is a trusted form of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) which is publicly shared with everybody but not owned by anybody. The technology uses a series of ‘blocks’ that are linked together in a chain, and each block contains information about a transaction or event that has been recorded and – very securely – validated. Blockchain based security technology has the capability to register and validate billions of events per second, making it ideal to meet the needs of an IoT world.
There are a number of revolutionary new blockchain based security technologies available. A company called Guardtime uses hash-function cryptography on a blockchain to enable digital signature based authentication for electronic data, machines and humans. Essentially, they have taken one of the key benefits of the blockchain, it’s virtual impenetrability, and leveraged it on a private scale. This allows organisations who are managing multiple IoT devices – and more – to securely access them using this technology, thereby mitigating the risk of intrusion by unknown or unsavoury individuals.
Another product available already, Shocard, uses the blockchain and cryptographic imagery to enable verification of an individual’s personal information without that individual ever actually sharing their personal information. Using a mobile app, Shocard creates a cryptographic hash image of the individual’s Identification Document (ID) or any other personal file. A digital signature of the hash is then created and put on the blockchain for third parties to use for validation. The actual copy of the person’s ID or personal file remains on their own device and, therefore, within their own control.
Something like the above is very advantageous for compliance purposes, particularly for South African organisations who need to start looking for ways to comply with the new Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act. Beyond compliance from an organisational point of view, the blockchain is also being used by forward thinking security and forensics companies to track and trace digital criminal behaviour – a must in a time when the Internet is a breeding ground for criminals.
Government, public and private organisations across the globe continue to be a target of various threat actors, often leading to very sophisticated data breaches. According to the Breach Level Index, there have been over 4 Billion breaches globally, since 2013. Thankfully, technology is enabling the creation of new cybersecurity platforms and products virtually daily, designed to combat the wave of cyberterrorists and criminals seeking to intrude into systems. The blockchain is being used creatively to underpin many of these, enabling better security than ever before.
Many organisations in South Africa are still turning to 20th Century Corporation (20CC) solutions to fix or prevent security issues but, in a world where the investment in IoT is ever increasing, they need the strategizing and security of a 21st Century Corporation (21CC) to combat cybercrime. South African companies who are investing in IoT, mobile applications and next generation technology solutions for their business, need to start looking to the likes of blockchain to ensure they are protected against intrusion.
By Saurabh Kumar