The recent malicious ransomware attack dubbed "Bad Rabbit," which locked users' computers across the globe and demanded money to retrieve files, is likely to continue spreading to unprotected systems. The Times reported that less than half of all major anti-virus programs currently detect this type of ransomware attack.
This is just one of many recent cyberattacks that threaten people all over the world, and they are on the rise. Gemalto, a global database of public data breaches, found that the number of lost, stolen or compromised records increased by a staggering 164 percent since last year. Mobile ransomware alone has risen by over 250 percent during the first quarter of 2017, reported Kaspersky Lab a global cybersecurity company.
Unfortunately, the critical mass no longer trusts institutions to protect their data from potential exposure. Revelations from this year's Equifax breach are just one example of this growing sentiment, leaving consumers wary of their digital safety, and security experts and even government officials, in question.
Given the reality of current global cyberwarfare, there's no question that existing security protocols are simply not working. Enter blockchain, a decentralized and distributed ledger with a secure and unalterable database. In the midst of ongoing apprehension, blockchain's benefits and inherent capabilities are becoming more closely examined as one of the most promising defense for security matters. Given blockchain's core features of transparency and immutability, it makes it the ideal technology to displace legacy-based security systems.
The State of Cyberattacks
Damages from worldwide cybercrime will cost $6 trillion annually by 2021 and companies and governments have invested billions of dollars in cybersecurity. Cybersecurity spending has exceeded $86.4 billion this year, but a majority is being used for newer detection and response approaches.
The inventor of the first anti-virus software, John McAfee of McAfee, Inc., has said that online protection paradigms are dead and not enough to detect hackers and fight digital crime. McAfee's longstanding views align with the rising trend of menacing, imminent cyber activities which show no signs of slowing down. To illustrate, there are about 80 to 90 million cyberattacks each year, and up to 70 percent go undetected.
Security experts continue to provide tips on digital safety precautions, however, we must take proactive measures. Today's hackers are more sophisticated than ever before. To make matters worse, because the most popular option is to allow the storage of our data in one centralized location, we're unwilling putting a significant amount of quality information on the web. As we continue to rely on the safety of our data in centralized points with legacy systems, we are encouraging unauthorized use of information and leading ourselves back to the origin of all our issues.
Looking to Blockchain
Blockchain technology became popular with the surging use of bitcoin, the first decentralized digital currency. Bitcoin transactions are unalterable, recorded and verified by blockchain's public ledger where banks and governments are not involved, which makes it appealing to users. During the great recession, when people lost their trust in financial institutions, bitcoin emerged as an alternative payment system. After blockchain's recognition in the financial sector, it has become a trending solution for many other industries, including cybersecurity.
By default, the notion of distributed ledgers - the architecture of blockchain - makes data less vulnerable to hacking. Since the information does not belong to one particular person, organization or server, stolen information is close to impossible. Blockchain's distributed ledgers address the primary goal of cybersecurity where data is protected from unauthorized corruption, alternation or destruction because the information cannot be encrypted.
Blockchain allows one person to access their data which drastically improves the security of data storage by authorizing and distributing it to a select network. Instead of giving entry to one company, blockchain-based security protocols guard sensitive data in different locations and are still available regardless of a network shutdown. Essentially, it empowers individuals and businesses to control their own data and prevent the spread of sensitive information.
This explains why IBM's study finds that improvements in security against fraud and cybercrime make up 56 percent of the reason why business leaders are currently using or considering adopting blockchain in their organizations. Also, the increased use and investment in bitcoin and other digital currencies alone demonstrate the public's interest in blockchain technology.
Challenges of Blockchain Adoption
For now, blockchain remains prominent in financial applications and even with its breakthrough in this sector, regulatory concerns make it difficult to standardize in institutionalized protocols. This means that blockchain deployment for cybersecurity is still in its infancy, which is the case for other markets.
For secure data storage systems, a blockchain network needs to be large and well distributed because security mechanisms are restricted by volume. Also, in order to build security structures on blockchain, we need more redundancy to make it resistant to cyberattacks, which will improve usability and speed. Aside from technological advancements, it's a long, but promising race to disrupt current legacy infrastructures and shift away from these long-established frameworks. Despite the situation, businesses and governments are gradually welcoming blockchain; helping industry leaders lay a solid groundwork.
In Deloitte's report about blockchain and cybersecurity, the company's Asia Pacific Investment Management Leader, Jennifer Qin said, "to make blockchain commercially viable to be fully adopted by business and government, it has to be fully compliant with regulatory requirements, business customs and various business environments."
This past month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission held an investor advisory committee meeting on blockchain and the conversation signaled a path to adoption of the technology. This leads us to be hopeful about the government's support to foster more business creation and conformity in blockchain cybersecurity technologies.
Remodeling Current Security Protocols
At the moment, there aren't many commercial blockchain storage and security products available since the technology is still being introduced and developed in various industries. Nevertheless, there are a growing number blockchain projects focused on building solutions for data authentication and device security management.
A blockchain-based browser company, Blockstack, is setting out to create a new decentralized Internet - this might sound familiar to those who follow the HBO series, "Silicon Valley." The idea behind its solution is to remove all third parties from managing web servers, ID systems and databases, which would erase digital footprints generated on popular sites like Google and Facebook.
This startup is one among a burgeoning amount of new blockchain ventures for cybersecurity. Big companies, such as Lockheed Martin, have even jumped on board. The aerospace giant has partnered with a software security company to enhance security in software development and supply chain risk management.
In our daily lives, we're constantly susceptible to hacking, viruses, phishing scams, ransomware and data breaches. Regardless of the greater awareness of our vulnerability, every day, we share sensitive data with companies that have a terrifying amount of it including Google, Facebook and Amazon - primal territories for hackers. These (third parties) websites are standard cases of how we unwillingly give bait to cybercriminals by storing an abundance of data in a single location; notoriously known as low hanging fruit for them. The widening uncertainty of the public's security in parallel with sprouting digital security attacks will ultimately result in widespread blockchain implementation for the future of our digital protection. Soon, robust blockchain applications will be more available, and eventually, the norm.
Igor Barinov is co-founder and product manager of Oracles Network