Could blockchain solve the threat of ransomware?

This is a contributed piece by Ian Smith, Founder and CEO of Gospel Technology

Over the past week we have all experienced the impact of serious cyber threats. The hackers behind the recent ransomware attack are faceless and appear to have no regard for the impact their behaviour has on people's lives. This is the reality of the world in which we now live. The distance a computer screen puts between the criminal and the victim seems to have rendered basic human morals non-existent.

Other recent cyber security attacks have seen many organisations purporting to have a magical solution to this threat. Realistically however, there’s no silver bullet, and if there were, threats would evolve and develop to meet it. That being said, there are many exploring new technologies, such as blockchain, to try and develop a solution.

To understand how blockchain could reduce threats, we must first look at the way current computing architecture has been built. Historically enterprises have operated within their own centralised trust environments, managed through a hub of security policies, such as patching schedules. What has been made clear in recent days, is that this model is no longer fit for purpose.

The trust model in enterprise IT needs to change. The concept of centralised rules and policies being pushed to all assets in an environment is fundamentally outdated. The real value here is in business and personal data. Blockchain presents a potential solution in that it can be leveraged to deliver a decentralised data platform that allows users to share and collaborate. The benefit is that in such a system all connected sections are assumed to be untrusted unless otherwise given consent.

Within a blockchain system trust can be built into every transaction, and access can be verified at every point (allowed through decentralised data logic) as opposed to an open permission-based system. In such an environment, ransomware would have no effect, as it would simply act as a transient piece of edge computing. The data would be safe and secure in a distributed ledger.

Existing siloed architecture ultimately leads to workarounds, particularly where many data sharing and consent actions are conducted via email on laptops. Edge devices are particularly vulnerable (as is the case with IoT systems), and we see bulk breaches and attacks at this point in the environment. Whilst the silo mentality is secure it is currently unworkable.

Blockchain removes the human from data exchange - preventing any errors from allowing ransomware into systems.

In the case of distributed networks, general hygiene and patching is essential. However, the management and policing of this model is both expensive and difficult. The reality is that these environments, where business critical data is held, will always be at risk. It doesn’t have to be sophisticated cyber activity or exposure; it could be as simple as not locking your laptop in a public place.

But just for a second imagine a world where the systems upon which we rely can operate around us with total trust and security. A world where technology is rapidly pivoting away from proprietary, siloed systems to more open and connected architectures. A world where data is readily exploited to better our lives, both passively and interactively. A new data culture is coming, one where the value of data is understood and realised, and using blockchain technology, it will become easily implemented into organisations.


Also read:
Hype vs. reality: We investigate the potential in blockchain
What can Blockchain bring to security?
What’s a blockchain? And is it heading for prime time?


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