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Using Blockchain Technology to Secure the Internet of Things (IoT)

MMS Founder

Article originally posted on Data Science Central. Visit Data Science Central

Blockchain, which is a form of a decentralized digital ledger technology, has gained enormous attention in the recent years, precisely, since 2004. In fact, it has disrupted how major industries operate both locally and internationally.

Blockchain and security, Blockchain and real estate, Blockchain and finance, Blockchain and health, Blockchain and the Internet of Things, Blockchain and logistics, and those are just but a few of the industries that are enjoying the unmatched benefits of the Blockchain technology. In this article, we will discuss in more detail how the Blockchain technology can help secure the Internet of Things (IoT).

Internet of Things or IoT is an interconnected network of smart devices including mobile phones, computers, baby monitors, fridges, and much more, in fact, almost any device that connects through the internet. And bearing in mind the number of internet-connected devices that are available in the world today, it’s clear that the IoT industry is a sensitive industry whose operations should be exceptional.

For instance, in 2017, there were approximately 8.4 billion internet-enabled devices including cameras, thermostats, and other more electronics. It is expected that by 2020, the number would have exceeded 20 billion. However, over the years, the industry is still vulnerable to some sensitive concerns such as security and privacy. Am sure we all know the complications that come with unsecured connections including cyber-attacks that cost individuals millions of dollars.

Here are a few of the challenges facing IoT networks;

  • Software attacks- this involves malware such as viruses
  • Physical device attacks- this mainly involves unauthorized device control
  • Network attacks- this includes wireless vulnerability exploits and denial of service assaults
  • Encryption attacks- for instance, password cracking

Blockchain technology benefits are numerous and well-designed to suit almost any industry. With Blockchain together with IoT, networks can change and improve for the better regarding speed, security, privacy, transparency, and efficiency among other benefits.

How it is done

Now that we understand what Blockchain technology and IoT are all about let’s look at how the two technologies can work together to create new, secure, and exciting software solutions

Decentralized security option in the Blockchain systems

IoT operates in a client-server model which requires a specific administrator to control and manage the network. This kind of centralized authority is weak when it comes to cyber-security. In case of a breach in the central management, then it means that any information in the network is vulnerable to hackers.

In addition, it’s possible to target the security of a central authority. Once they have access to the massive data, they can perform a series of attacks in one go. For instance, in 2017, numerous cyber-attacks exposed sensitive information relating to millions of Americans.

These centrally controlled systems have flaws, and sometimes hackers gain control over operations and steal data, and they may end up gaining access to people’s importance devices. With the Blockchain model in place, IoT can be able to fight off such attacks from happening. This is possible since Blockchain is a decentralized database, and it’s impossible for hackers to target any individual on the network.

In fact, it’s futile to target any individual node of the system since all the other nodes will resist any alteration of data. The only way hackers can get access to the network is by bringing the whole network down, which is impossible considering the complex cryptography installed in the network. Cryptography secured systems are much safer than traditional client-server models.

The Blockchain network has the potential also to protect its data from hackers by validating any pre-determined acceptable behavior in case of any irregularities. If a device is identified as behaving incorrectly, it is isolated and thereby preventing any further access to sensitive data.

The use of smart contract

Blockchain networks have a unique feature, the smart contract, which allows the creation of certain agreements which will only be executed once the respective conditions are met. For instance, this can be used when buying products or services, where the system is authorized only to make a payment when specific requirements are met, in this case when a delivery has been made. In case the services are not delivered, then no payment can be processed. In addition, this feature also eliminates any chance of information alteration.

In addition, the Blockchain network records and permanently stores any data transaction between multiple organizations. This means that all these Blockchain transaction records are immutable and can be tracked as physical goods and data each time there is a transaction in the supply chain. This can help follow and ascertain that funds allocated for a specific purpose are used for that purpose. This way, organizations such as governments can be able to follow-up with its finances.

This feature lacks in IoT models and clients are not able to track or analyze certain important activities which sometimes may lead to millions of losses. Also, in case something goes wrong, for instance, data leaks, the Blockchain record can help identify and mitigate the risk. Therefore, Blockchain in the IoT can help secure the specific security issues, especially for regulatory compliance.

The encryption and distributed ledger of the Blockchain enabled systems

The use of the Blockchain with IoT can help secure and give access to distributed storage to trusted parties in the supply chain.  In the case of large organizations such as governments, access to sensitive data can be given to specific entities. And without the private access keys, no one can access any information in the system.

 In addition, right-access rights can be given to the Blockchain systems, where the machine records and securely stores all the transactions that take place in the system. This way, no entity can be able to alter or overwrite the details with any inaccurate information. Currently, in IoT, there are numerous cases of errors and changes in sensitive information because the systems give access to human oversight.

The Blockchain network can help secure specific software updates. By publishing software updates on the Blockchain systems along with a cryptographic hash of the update, those updates can be authenticated by Blockchain-connected IoT devices.

Prevent physical theft

In today’s world, a day can’t pass without a case of a physical theft especially on smart devices. Using Blockchain with IoT, it would help control the issue of physical theft of smart devices. The Blockchain technology can help identify and block any device that is noted to be performing irregular. Also, once a device is reported stolen, it can be immediately quarantined by the network.  

In addition, information on stolen devices such as current location can be forwarded to the authorities. Almost all smart devices have a unique manufacturing number, and in case of theft, the information of the device can be shared to applications platforms and organizations linked to the device. This will enable them to blacklist such devices and prevent any access to sensitive data related to the device.   

The above is an insight on how the Blockchain technology can help secure IoT devices. The configuration, update control, IoT discovery, secure firmware updates, message authentication, and trusted communication among other benefits stand out. Blockchain technology investors, as well as individuals all over the globe, stand to enjoy secure IoT networks.








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