March 16, 2018
How Blockchain can Secure the Internet of Things
Many of the trends in technological innovation actually overlap and can elevate one another. One of the most pressing modern technologies is blockchain.
Blockchain may still seem highly nebulous to most. Unlike IoT, AI or chatbots, how blockchain will change user interaction with computers isn’t that obvious. In short, blockchain is a distributed general ledger used for transmitting value or information in a secure manner utilizing cryptography. Instead of sending information through a third party or single server for processing, the transaction can be processed in minutes through validation by the blockchain network. Blockchain will increase efficiencies, reduce the need for middlemen and enhance security on the internet.
How does this apply to IoT exactly? A recent article in The Conversation outlines how blockchain can secure our IoT devices. By 2020, an expected 20 billion internet enabled devices will exist in circulation. This includes phones, computers but also thermostats, cameras and streetlights that play a major role in our public infrastructure. As discussed in previous blog posts, increased connectivity leads to increased vulnerability to cyberattacks only getting more aggressive and ubiquitous.
Blockchain presents a potential option to put in place of proprietary software and infrastructure tech giants use to connect the IoT devices they manufacture. Any movement or transaction made on the blockchain creates a permanent record making hacking more difficult and more easily traceable. While no system is invincible, blockchain presents a plausible solution to some of the major security concerns surrounding increasing IoT connectivity. We want to make our cities, homes and businesses smarter but we don’t want to become easily subjected to attacks that threaten our security and intellectual property.
According to the article, each IoT device could potentially contain its own cryptographic identity or address. It’s the same concept as public and private keys used for Bitcoin wallets. Any time information is transferred or shared with the device, a block is created on the blockchain. Any attempt to tamper with or update the device would require authentication. In order to work, these blockchain programs would need to be easily programmable in devices with limited processing power and memory. With so many companies and researchers prioritizing the advancement of blockchain technology, leveraging it to secure IoT devices may be closer than we think.