The recent hacking of US credit report giant Equifax, which saw the personal information of up to 143 million customers compromised, is sadly nothing new in today’s world.
Massive security breaches of this kind and the subsequent exposure of customer data to potential criminal exploitation are now a regular occurrence. As internet security procedures and protocols advance in sophistication, so too do the capabilities of those who seek to outsmart them. The biggest losers here are, as always, the consumers.
If the Equifax breach – like so many before it – tells us one thing, it is that the centralized model of data storage is outmoded, unsafe and represents a rotten deal for anyone who wants their personal information kept safe online.
This situation needs to change if we are to have any hope of keeping data about every aspect of our lives out of the hands of criminals.
One solution that is being increasingly talked about is blockchain – familiar to many as the platform for digital currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. There is a good deal of optimism amongst web security experts that this could point the way towards a vastly improved set of defences against hackers and malware.
Last October, the attack on the Domain Name Services (DNS) provider for several big names including PayPal, Netflix and Twitter, which saw millions of users temporarily locked out of their accounts, provided a clear illustration of the chaos that can result from a co-ordinated attack on a centralized infrastructure.
However, the use of blockchains to store data removes this one large target and makes it harder for hackers to attack a single weak point in the system. Blockchains are also immune from the need for caching, which makes the current DNS system vulnerable to DDoS attacks and manipulation by outside agencies such as oppressive governments or criminal organisations.
Data manipulation is also being addressed through the use of Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI) developed by Estonian tech start-up Guardtime. KSI acts as a replacement for the traditional Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) which relies too heavily on centralized storage and cached data. Using blockchain technology, the use of passwords – so often a principal target of hackers and malware – will become obsolete, whilst valuable data can be distributed across multiple blockchains. This will render it nearly impossible for criminals to harvest data with any degree of efficiency.
A Safer Future
Blockchain-based security is set to spell the end for centralized storage and eliminate the human factor in the equation, essentially neutralising the two fundamental weak points that hackers exploit.
The battle to protect our data and ourselves online is on-going and unlikely to end any time soon. But blockchains are wrestling the initiative away from the criminals and pointing the way towards a safer, more secure future for the internet.
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