Omri Barzilay , CONTRIBUTOR
The second quarter of 2017 was a wild one for blockchain companies and investors, with nearly 60 initial coin offerings (ICOs) closed in the quarter for more than $750 million, and it looks like this is just the beginning. It seems that blockchain is about to have an impact on nearly every industry.
While banking, finance and real estate are the so-called usual suspects by being ahead of the curve, even industries like education, social media and security are being disrupted by blockchain-powered startups. Blockchain tech has an inherent connection to cybersecurity. Blockchain technologies are, after all, the culmination of decades of research and breakthroughs in cryptography and security. It offers a totally different approach to storing information, making transactions, performing functions, and establishing trust, which makes it especially suitable for environments with high security requirements and mutually unknown actors.
Thus, while cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin sometimes experience rocky fluctuations in value, its blockchain underpinnings have so far successfully withstood cyber-attacks for more than 8 years. This is the reason the some of the largest corporations like Lockheed Martin had decided to bet on blockchain for cybersecurity. Other innovative companies have also been exploring the advantages of blockchain tech in solving the pressing security issues of our time:
Guardtime detects and mitigates cyberattacks in real-time
Guardtime, founded by Estonian cryptographer Ahto Buldas, is a data security startup that has been around since 2007. It is now placing its bets on blockchain technology to secure sensitive records. The company has already used blockchains to create a Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI), a replacement for the more traditional Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), which uses asymmetric encryption and a cache of public keys maintained by a centralized Certificate Authority (CA). Guardtime has grown into “the world’s largest blockchain company by revenue, headcount, and actual customer deployments.” In 2016 the company reached an incredible milestone as it secured all of Estonia's 1 million health records with its technology.
REMME is making passwords obsolete
With REMME’s blockchain, businesses can authenticate users and devices without the need for a password. This eliminates the human factor from the authentication process, therefore preventing it from becoming a potential attack vector. Alex Momot, founder and CEO of REMME, says that the use of simple logins and a centralized architecture are a big weakness of traditional systems. “No matter how much money a company spends on security, all these efforts are in vain, if customers and employees use passwords that are easy to crack or steal. Blockchain takes the responsibility for strong authentication, resolving the single point of attack at the same time. In addition, the decentralized network helps us to provide consensus between parties for their identification.”
REMME is built on the premise that a decentralized system is better than a centralized one, which is vulnerable to attacks. Consider, for example, the numerous attacks on centralized password manager LastPass, which have left millions of accounts potentially vulnerable to theft. REMME leverages a distributed public key infrastructure to authenticate users and devices. Instead of a password, REMME gives each device a specific SSL certificate. The certificate data is managed on the Blockchain, which makes it virtually impossible for malicious hackers to use fake certificates. The platform also uses two-factor authentication to further enhance security for its users.
Businesses are already taking heed. Ukroboronprom, Ukraine’s umbrella association for the defense industry, has established a strategic partnership with REMME to enable secure, password-less access to its employees – this shows the level of trust that companies are putting into blockchain-based security. To bolster its capacity, REMME is also planning to announce its initial coin offering (ICO) by October this year.
Obsidian ensures the privacy and security of chats
Messenger services comprise today a big amount of internet usage across the globe, and these apps are already being used for payments and to engage users through chatbots. The integration of messaging and commerce holds that much promise. For example, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp each count for at least 1.2 billion active users, and Chinese messaging service WeChat boasts 2 billion. However, there is an inherent danger of social engineering, hacks, and other security vulnerabilities. Consider, for example, the risk that WhatsApp and Telegram could have faced with a flaw based on image metadata.
Obsidian uses the blockchain-decentralized network, which cannot be censored or controlled by any single source. In addition, communications meta-data is scattered throughout the distributed ledger, and cannot be gathered at one central point, reducing the risk of surveillance through such digital fingerprints. Users need not link to their email addresses or telephone numbers, thereby increasing privacy. “The initial concept for Obsidian was to overcome the weakness that other end-to-end-encryption messenger apps still have today,” says Peter McClury, CEO of Obsidian. “The issue many of these apps (WhatsApp, Signal, Wire, Threema, etc.) is that none of the well-known secure messengers protect communication metadata effectively enough, that is, who is communicating with whom.”
Obsidian Messenger will also implement a parallel network for exchange of payloads like data and files, and the platform will provide a means to exchange its own token, ODN, as a means of value exchange. Obsidian has raised its minimum required capital through an ICO, which is ongoing and so far, raising around 424 BTC ($1.78M as of writing) of its around 1371 BTC target (around US$5.9 million as of writing).
The future looks bright for blockchain-based security platforms
The blockchain addresses the fundamental flaws of security by taking away the human factor from the equation, which is usually the weakest link. By leveraging a distributed ledger and taking away the risk of a single point of failure, blockchain technology provides end-to-end privacy and encryption while still ensuring convenience for users.
Blockchain technologies are here to stay. It is probably going to help us protect as individuals, companies and governments. Even the pentagon already thinks the blockchain technology can be used as cybersecurity shield. Bitcoin and its underlying blockchain have proved to be resilient, and the numerous new blockchain technologies offer even more promise in terms of extensibility and robustness, especially in the field of security.
This article originally appeared at Forbes.com.