Blockchain is the initial technology behind the digital currency Bitcoin, providing users who do not know each other the ability to build a dependable ledger.
However, the technology has potential beyond cryptocurrency. Today, blockchain is being investigated as a tool to better secure Internet of Things (IoT) networks, potentially reducing the significant risk that can accompany IoT use.
To learn more about what blockchain is, how it works and its potential in IoT, R&D Magazine spoke with Ahmed Banafa, IoT expert, technology speaker and faculty member at San Jose State University.
R&D Magazine: What is blockchain?
Banafa: The current system we have now for IoT is centralized—single point of failure. This means that if a hacker can get into the cloud, if they can get into a set of routers or the server, they can get into the information and no one can stop them. The idea of the blockchain is different.
Say for example, you have an office building that has a guard outside that checks the I.D.s of people before letting them in. This is what we have now in IoT. In the case of blockchain we don’t have a guard standing there; this person can get in. However, before that happens 80 to 90 percent of the people in the building have to identify this person and say it is OK for them to enter. It is a peer-to-peer system. You have to have the voting of roughly 8/10 saying this is a valid transaction. That is safer because it is not just one person signing off. If you just have just one guard, as we do in traditional IoT security, what happens if that guard is corrupted or can be bribed to get in?
Blockchain evolved from Bitcoin. That is where the idea came from.
R&D Magazine: What are the biggest security concerns currently within IoT ?
Banafa: It is the same problem that you have with any kind of network you are dealing with—the challenges are big. First off, there are limitations in technology. You cannot tell me that a system is 100 percent secure, even if you have the best encryption, the best firewalls, it doesn’t matter. Someone smarter than you will eventually figure it out.
Another big problem is the user. Not everyone is tech-savvy and understands the importance of changing their passwords, not clicking on links they don’t recognize, etc The non-technical user is a weakness in the system, which is going to be an access point for a hacker.
The other challenge is that we have many different kinds of hardware and software available. Therefore, there are issues with the compatibility process and this can create some holes for hackers to get in.
Blockchain tries to not deal with them. Instead, it deals with the process, not the components, not the software. Blockchain changes the process of who is identified, who is approved instead of going and solving every software and hardware problem. Blockchain looks at the problem from a different perspective.
More at: The Potential of Blockchain to Secure IoT – RDMag.com