For most people, blockchain is known as the technology behind crypto currency transactions. However, since the development of this “digital distributed ledger” in 2008, several industry sectors have been able to use this technology to manage all sorts of data. So what, exactly, is blockchain and what are its distinctive features?
Blockchain is a decentralized database or ledger that is composed of numerous time-stamped series of unalterable records organized in clusters (block), which are connected by a “chain,” also called cryptographic principle (hash).
Five distinctive features make this technology particularly interesting for businesses and government agencies:
- The decentralization of the data allows every participant to own a copy of the database. There is no central authority that dictates what should be considered “true information” and every participant can see the history of transactions, which offers a level of protection if some computers are compromised by a cyber attack.
- The blockchain is highly resistant to changes and the addition of new transactions requires consensus from participants (validation). This means that data tampering is almost impossible to escape detection, providing an additional layer of data protection.
- The transparency of transactions is ensured because all transactions are validated, permanently recorded, and traceable.
- While allowing transparency of transactions, blockchain also provides anonymity of participants’ identity through complex encryption.
- Blockchain can be public, meaning that anyone can join and make transactions with other participants, or it can be private, meaning that participants need to obtain permission (be vetted) before joining the blockchain.
Using Blockchain Technology for Innovative Solutions
The field of cybersecurity information exchange has greatly evolved in the past 10 years, but several technical and behavioral problems still need to be addressed. Blockchain could offer innovative solutions to these problems. The effective protection of critical infrastructure against cyber threat requires an information exchange structure that is agile, resilient, and trustworthy in order to improve cyber defense strategies and tactics.
Integration: Blockchain can be used to create a cyber intelligence exchange infrastructure that will support the cybersecurity ecosystem by allowing a secure integration of existing information sharing communities and resilience through decentralization of data storage. For instance, such cyber intelligence platforms based on blockchain technology could provide a scalable, secure, and decentralized infrastructures that allow for flexible access controls, private query, anonymous contribution, and data exchange review through traceable data exchange records.
Security: Blockchain technology could also provide customizable—and controlled—multilateral cyber intelligence sharing through automated smart contracts, allowing for the integration and enforcement of Information Exchange Policies (IPEs) from all participating actors. Moreover, a cyber intelligence sharing platform enabled by blockchain would support the continuous availability of data by allowing participating actors to store and access data locally in case of interruption or disconnection of external networks (resilience).
Quality: Finally, such platforms could support transparent and consensual intelligence exchange protocols like Trusted Automated Exchange of Intelligence Information (TAXII) and Structured Threat Information Expression (STIX), ensuring both the quality and standardization of data.
The use of blockchain technology to enhance cyber intelligence sharing is currently being implemented by IBM through its Trusted Anonymous Data Exchange (TRADE). This exchange platform utilizes blockchain to share threat intelligence anonymously on a Hyperledger Fabric network, using smart contracts to ensure the relevant level of anonymity, reputation, and extent of access permissions of parties.
Another interesting aspect of using blockchain technology for cyber intelligence exchange is the opportunity to scale the process of sharing through the integration of artificial intelligence that will allow for the faster automation of smart contracts (enforcement of Information Exchange Policies).
Artificial intelligence could also significantly increase data analytics capabilities and therefore equip the exchange platform with analytical tools that provide more relevance to the shared intelligence (added value). The technology fusion between artificial intelligence and blockchain is already implemented in several industries (energy, healthcare, finance) and within smart city infrastructures.
It's only a matter of time before blockchain technology expands into other spaces, and brings with it critical solutions to some of today's biggest data challenges. As this occurs, businesses and government agencies will look to invest in hiring individuals who are able to think strategically and effectively manage this evolving technology.