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Blockchain: Can It Secure IoT Technology?

Blockchain: Can It Secure IoT Technology?
5
Dec

The last two weeks Bitcoin has repeatedly made news, breaking limits of value unexpected in traditional financial sectors. Though Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are making news, it’s the underlying technology that offers the most reward to businesses. Namely, blockchain technology.

Last month we discussed the encroaching issues with the ever expanding IoT world in which we live. Specifically, hackers have begun to utilize IoT devices to take down websites and servers.

So how can blockchain help alleviate security risks to a business’s IoT infrastructure?

IoT risks

Last month’s article focused on IoT risks of being hacked and used as a part of a botnet, but here are some specific security concerns for IoT devices.

As mentioned, manufactures do not design IoT devices for user interface. That makes their security infrastructure weak, often with poor encryption. Businesses and owners leave passwords as default, factory assigned keys. Security cameras and routers can be at risk for hacking, exposing an internal network’s data to anyone.

Even devices that are not designed to touch the internet, such as appliances, are connected to the internal network of a home. A breach of that network would cause all devices in the home to become unusable. Everything from refrigerators to security cameras can be compromised.

Similarly, single cloud servers hold all business IoT infrastructure. IoT devices connect and communicate with each other through the internet, regardless of proximity. Two devices could be just several feet apart, but communication would require pinging through the internet to a cloud server and back again.

An attack on one server can take out an enterprises’ full fleet of IoT devices in one shot. In fact, a single DDoS attack would make a business’s smart devices worthless. Since IoT devices need to communicate with other devices, utilizing the internet creates a bottleneck and a weakness that can take down a whole system.

Blockchain

In a previous article we discussed blockchain technology and how it functions. There are two important features to blockchain that help alleviate weaknesses IoT infrastructure can run into.

Blockchain is a peer-to-peer (P2P) system, which broadcasts communication to multiple systems at once. The network validates communication, locking communication into encrypted blocks that cannot be altered or changed once in the chain. There is no centralized server or network in the validation process, and multiple systems validate concurrently.

How does this apply to IoT networks?

In the first main weakness, poor security and encryption, all communication is verified and encrypted with blockchain’s complicated key assignment method. The network verifies and encrypts communication publicly, for all to see. A device’s own weak encryption will no longer put an internal hub at risk for compromise.

That’s not to say everyone will see the data. Public means everyone within the P2P network of verification can see the communication occurring. The system encrypts the actual communication before locking in the block. Data would be undiscoverable to hackers, yet everyone within the network can verify it occurred.

Secondly, blockchain alleviates the centralized bottleneck of IoT communication, as well as the security risk of a single point of contact. Blockchain proponents, and detractors, cite the network’s decentralized nature as the essence of the technology. A DDoS attack on a single server would not disrupt communication between IoT devices. The communication would continue around the disruption, as the network continues pinging.

The network ensures accuracy and security through the redundant and public nature if a system is compromised. Similarly, devices can communicate around a compromised device, as in the case of botnets. Thus isolating the threat.

Similarly, there is no delay or internet requirement. IoT devices can communicate directly in a P2P fashion.

Business application

Aligning blockchain and IoT is not a new thought. In fact, many deep in the tech world have proposed combining the two disruptive technologies since their advents.

However, blockchain technology uptake has taken time. IoT technology has far outpaced other disruptive technologies, such as VR and AI, while blockchain awareness has an almost synchronistic nature with the cryptocurrencies that use it.

As Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have made their way into mainstream awareness, blockchain technology has become more relevant and available for business application. The technology is more readily accessible.

Bitcoin’s success has made blockchain accessible for most businesses.

As the world moves forward with all disruptive technologies, businesses who can be a step ahead will make sure their data is secure and their devices remain under their control.