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Is blockchain an answer to security concerns of (IoT)?

March 27 2018
Author: v2softadmin

How can blockchain secure Internet of Things (IoT)? Blockchain: Will it be a game-changer in securing IoT?

A Gartner study estimates blockchain will add $3.1 trillion in business value by 2030, and in another analysis, the global IoT market is expected to grow from $157B in 2016 to $457B by 2020.

Both combined, the expected growth would be exponential!

Before we jump into the discussion of how blockchain is used to secure the Internet of Things (IoT), we need to understand two aspects 

  • How does the blockchain technology work; and 
  • Why is security one of the major concerns in IoT?

Let's start

What is blockchain technology?

As discussed by us in 6 ways blockchain technology can benefit healthcare industry, blockchain is an open source and peer-to-peer distributed transaction (or ledger) technology which can be accessed publicly or by a limited group of people

This is an example of how blockchain works -

How a blockchain works - process flow chart

How a blockchain works - process flow chart

Source: TechRepublic

These specific features of blockchain make it a preferred technology today

  • Append-only or indelible: Blockchain is “append-only”, meaning, you can add entries but nothing gets deleted. It is an indelible record and hence, cannot be tampered with easily.
  • Secure: Each transaction needs to be authenticated by different nodes in the network which makes blockchain trustless (as it distributes trust amongst multiple actors and uses “public-key cryptography” and a “consensus mechanism” that allows us to determine the truth).
  • Publicly available: It is a public ledger which is open and distributed, meaning, a number of people can have access to it at the same time.
  • Difficult to tamper: For all the reasons above, it is very difficult to hack or tamper with.

Security, a top concern of IoT supporters

When it comes to the IoT, in spite of all the advancements, security remains a top concern. as it exposes multiple devices, huge amounts of data, supply chain partners and community as a whole to security breaches.

For example, in the healthcare industry, wearable technology deals with an extensive amount of patient data which is critically important. With an increase in devices that monitor a patient’s real-time medical data, the entry points for hackers are on a rise.

By using insecure connected devices, hackers

  • can produce DDoS attacks that can negatively affect our infrastructure; or
  • exploit devices to obtain access to deeper levels of network where they can gather sensitive information (like healthcare information).

The unprecedented distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack which involved approximately 100,000 compromised devices in the Mirai botnet reminds us of the state of IoT. You can read 5 scary examples of IoT hacking here.

Aaron Tan, in an article on ComputerWeekly, says that the problem is the security architecture of the IoT, an inherently distributed client-server model that uses a central authority to manage IoT devices, along with all the data generated across an IoT network.

 

Security architecture of the IoT

Security architecture of the IoT

Source: Ahmad Banafa

How does blockchain technology solve this problem and improves security across an IoT network?

By now, you would have understood where we are getting at.

According to Joseph Pindar, director for strategy at Gemalto, for IoT data to be trusted, all trust requests are aggregated into a single location, creating a single point of security intelligence. Meaning, all connections have to go through a central hub and this makes it easier to hack or be tampered with.

However, blockchain can help create a secured, shared platform (with no single point of control) which are independent of all involved parties. As discussed above, the risk of hacking is eliminated, because data is distributed at multiple sources.

If the primary problem with IoT is single location or centralization, blockchain is the ideal solution explains IoT expert Ahmed Banafa.

But, the question is how? So,

  • Blockchain allows security to be distributed. There is no single person or hub holding the records. Each identity is registered and secured with the device’s public key. This ensures trusted and protected communication in the network. And, this gets us to the next point.
  • To tamper with one record, the hacker would have to hack all nodes worldwide and change the information on all computers simultaneously. It would be hard to do that and go unnoticed. The sheer computational power required would be extraordinary, experts say.
  • Also, blockchain is peer-to-peer network and not dependant on any intermediary (not mediated) which reduces vulnerability to hacking.

Challenges in using blockchain for IoT?

Of course, yes.

According to Tyler Jenks, in an article on very possible,Sometimes a family of devices may need a central control code base to provide the proper business logic for the devices, whether it lives on one server, or is made to be distributed across the devices. In such circumstances, there would be a single point entry even after using blockchain.

Along with this, there are few other challenges in implementing blockchain in the IoT.

  • Scales poorly: Blockchain scales poorly as the number of nodes in the network increases, and IoT networks are expected to contain an extremely large number of nodes, point out researchers from the University of New South Wales.
  • Computationally extensive: Blockchain has computationally intensive operations which is lacking in many IoT devices.
  • Lack of legal clarity: If you follow bitcoin news, you will know that blockchain is in the dark. This challenge alone will scare off many businesses from using Blockchain technology,”warns Banafa.

 

Challenges of using blockchain in IoT

Challenges of using blockchain in IoT

 

Despite all of the challenges, it is estimated that by 2019 (in just a year), 20% of all IoT deployments will have basic levels of blockchain services enabled.

There is no doubt that the public ledger created in blockchain is tamper-proof because it does not exist in one location and man-in-the-middle attacks cannot be staged because there is no single thread of communication that can be intercepted. For now, blockchain looks like the answer to the security concerns in IoT.

What is your opinion on using blockchain in IoT? Are you planning to improve security with blockchain based IoT solutions? Are you performing any pilots in your industry? We would love to hear from you. Let’s talk about it in the comments section