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Security Think Tank: Use blockchain for integrity and immutability checks

What are the best and most effective ways information security professionals can use blockchain technology?

Blockchain has been an overly-hyped solution for nearly everything, from finance to ledger integrity and smart contract, from peer-to-peer distribution to trust verification, but it has some uses in relation to information security.

In terms of cyber security, blockchain can be applied to systems that require integrity checks and immutability. Blockchain technology provides the ability to protect data from malicious attackers, preventing potential fraud and reducing the chance of data being stolen or compromised.

This is due to its distributed nature. To corrupt a blockchain, every system that processes it would have to be attacked, which could be thousands of systems. It relies on strength in numbers.

Given blockchain’s distributed ledger, if someone tries to alter the data, the system analyses the entire chain, compares them with the data change, and then excludes any that don’t match up, thereby preventing unauthorised changes.

In terms of DNS (domain name system) security, blockchain could be used to manage DNS records so that unauthorised changes could be performed only by the domain owner and DNS records would be immutable and distributed, making it nearly impossible to attack. The attacker would need to attack all nodes, because of blockchain’s distributed ledger.

Blockchain also has uses in relation to decentralised storage. Its data is not stored in one single place, but rather thousands of nodes. So data is not stored in one place, which makes it very difficult to harvest complete data sets.

Blockchain can be used in relation to threat and operational monitoring scenarios, such as IoT (internet of things) device security. Using blockchain, devices can “work together” and agree what “normal looks like” and, as a result, alert or lock devices that are behaving beyond the boundaries of normality. The beauty of blockchain is that there is no central authority and thousands or millions of nodes collectively control and make decisions based on the blockchain integrity.

The concept of an immutable ledger can be applied to asset management or data integrity and configuration controls, so that history of asset profiles or integrity hashes for software downloads can be stored in a blockchain. The hashes for a given download or software install can be compared to the hash stored in the blockchain to help ensure that software is not compromised with malware, and so on.

Read more from Computer Weekly’s Security Think Tank about how information security professionals can use blockchain technology

Access and identity management is also a candidate for blockchain – every transaction taking place within a blockchain is recorded. A blockchain-based identity and access management (IAM) system would render it impossible for hackers to enter a network/system and leave in an undetected manner.

Blockchain’s immutability means the attacker can no longer hide their tracks or tamper with access logs to erase records of their unwarranted access.

Overall, blockchain does have a purpose in relation to maintaining record integrity that can be applied to many use cases. It may be a little overhyped in terms of its applications, but it is a solid technology with strong arguments for certain applications.

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