BTC Inc
by Reuben Jackson, Nov 08, 2017

Preventing the Next Wikileaks With Blockchain Technology


Wikileaks

People are increasingly embracing digital tools to maximize effectiveness, efficiency and convenience.

From the events and information that we detail on social media to the incredibly sensitive personal and financial data stored by banks, people’s lives are becoming more digital and, concurrently, more vulnerable. A number of high-profile data breaches have attracted the public’s attention to the perilous security risks seemingly intrinsic to our modern digital ecosystem.

Most recently, the credit rating firm Equifax sustained a significant data breach which compromised people’s most sensitive personal information. According to Fortune, “Equifax has revised its estimate for the number of people potentially affected by its recent massive data breach to a total of 145.5 million people.” This is an astounding breach; but perhaps what’s most shocking about this attack is that it isn’t shocking at all. While it is expansive in scope, the Equifax hack rivals similar breaches of Yahoo!, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Blue Cross Blue Shield and others. 

These identity crimes have real victims who experience considerable and long-lasting consequences as a result of these cyber attacks. Unfortunately, cyber attacks are not limited to consumer enterprises. Sophisticated hackers are targeting government databases, successfully gaining access to highly sensitive and classified information about federal employees and active military personnel.

In 2015, more than 22 million people were compromised due to the largest government data theft. Most troubling was The Washington Post’s revelation that “a foreign intelligence service could use the information to identify U.S. intelligence operatives.” Just a few years prior, when Wikileaks published sensitive U.S. government information, the BBC reported that “U.S. military officials contend that allowing enemies access to their strategic and operational documents creates a dangerous environment for American troops serving abroad.” These specific types of data breaches compromise national security and they endanger our active military personnel.

The result is a nightmare scenario: hackers could gain access to a centralized government database and publish the identities of foreign operatives on Wikileaks or any other online medium; foreign governments would then be able to identify our operatives. However, given the recent trend of government and consumer institutional hacks, this seems more like an inevitability rather than a worst-case scenario.

Interestingly, regarding reader response to the Equifax hack, The New York Times wrote that there was a “sense of helplessness, the recognition that we are at the mercy of an industry that makes money off our data, treats us with disdain and answers to no one.” In a cultural moment when this sentiment is common, the blockchain emerges like a hero ready to save the day. The blockchain is the powerful, accessible new technology that offers immediate solutions to identity security — especially when it matters most.

The Blockchain Solution

The blockchain is the technology developed as the accounting mechanism of the cryptocurrency platform Bitcoin. Since Bitcoin’s inception in 2009, blockchain technology has advanced significantly. It is primarily proliferated by Ethereum, a rival cryptocurrency that employs the blockchain as a platform for its own cryptocurrency but also as a platform for others to develop their own cryptocurrencies and business solutions. The blockchain is a decentralized platform that runs similar decentralized applications (DApps), which accomplish a variety of purposes. It’s the innovation behind the fintech movement, the impetus for profound new business solutions and it may be the future of record keeping. When applied to personal, organizational and governmental privacy, blockchain technology is likely the best tool for thwarting cybercriminals and ensuring data security.

How it Will Help

Many companies and government agencies rely on centralized servers that are easy to attack using brute force attacks, phishing scams and other rudimentary methods. The blockchain is decentralized, so it’s able to combat brute force attacks because there isn’t a centralized server to attack.

Moreover, if an attacker gains access to a blockchain network and its data, this does not necessarily mean the attacker can read or retrieve the information. Since data is stored in blocks and verified independently, data integrity is guaranteed because it cannot be altered without the verification of the other, unaffected blocks. Finally, the blockchain’s decentralized nature means that, given a security breach, there wouldn’t be a singular point of failure and attacks would remain isolated without affecting the entire system. 

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