Are our laptops and smartphones the only devices connected to the large virtual space, the internet? Certainly, not! The internet, as we know today, connects a diverse range of devices that are built to make life more convenient.
The hyperconnected space has given birth to a new ecosystem which we call the Internet of Things. It is a digital realm that powers our smart watches, smart cars, smart home appliances and even a smart home itself.
Gartner, a leading research and advisory firm, has predicted that over 20 billion devices will be connected to the IoT ecosystem by 2020. In fact, a report by Business Insider forecasts that business spending on the technology will hit around $6 trillion by 2021.
With the addition of a wide variety of devices to the IoT stream, however, security is becoming a major concern. It is getting more and more challenging to meet the growing security demands of IoT, where the proliferation of devices are attracting more security threats.
Internet of Things Under Threat
One of the biggest threats to IoT is the rise in DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. The cyber attack is launched by controlling multiple nodes (systems or connected devices) on a network and coordinating a single powerful attack on a targeted system. Unfortunately, IoT works in a centralized system which, ultimately, makes it more susceptible to DDoS and other cyber attacks.
According to a recent survey conducted by a security firm, Altman Vilandrie, over 50% of the companies with an annual revenue of less than $500 million lost around $250,000 due to IoT attacks. The same survey reports that the companies with annual revenue of around $5 billion faced a loss of around $20 million.
IoT attacks and their resulting damages aren't limited to business and financial sectors. Since the technology is making its way into other areas, the damage could expand to an unimaginable scale.
Blockchain & Internet of Things
Blockchain is the new disruption of the tech industry, and it is one of the efficient solutions to prevent IoT security breaches.
Blockchain is a "distributed ledger" technology that is implemented by popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. It has the finest auditing and a transparent process of transaction recording or any other sort of interaction. For instance, to modify or change a transaction or any other digital record, the user would require getting the data validated by 50% of the nodes on the network.
The technology is still in its infancy which is why it is still too early to expect an extensive deployment across sectors. Regardless, network security specialists and security decision-makers are exploring it meticulously to find more opportunities for its universal implementation.
The decentralized network and sophisticated data validation process are some of the many important aspects of Blockchain technology that make it an effective security application for the Internet of Things.
The SWOT Analysis
The best way to discuss the efficacy of an application or technology is by understanding its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. So, let's make a quick SWOT analysis of Blockchain technology.
No Centralized Network: The most important aspect of Blockchain that makes it a suitable IoT security solution is its decentralized network. No single node in the network can approve or authorized a modification in the block. To validate changes in a block, all the systems on the network (at least 50%) need to verify the data. In short, there needs to be trust amongst the participating nodes to authorize a transaction.
Resilient Ecosystem: Since the technology works in a decentralized network, there is no room for any single point failure. With single point vulnerabilities thrown out of the window, the IoT ecosystem becomes more secure and resilient for a plethora of devices to work.
Extendable Database: Due to the proliferation of the nodes on a network, there is an enormous amount of data that can be stored. In short, there is no shortage of database in a Blockchain model.
Data Compromise is Possible: Blockchain is not a fully perfect security solution as it is not 100% penetration proof. Any entity with massive resources and vast computing power can compromise the data by taking over the control of 50% of the network. However, as said earlier, it would require massive processing resources.
Massive Processing Power Required: It is important that there is no shortage of processing power and time for the nodes to create and run encryption algorithms. However, when it comes to the Internet of Things, there is a diverse range of devices on the network with different computing power and capabilities. Moreover, it is also true that not every device connected to the IoT has enough processing power to perform high-level encryption algorithms.
The Compliance Issue: The convergence of Blockchain and the Internet of Things would give birth to a whole new terrain. Likewise, there would need to be legal or compliance patterns that may propose a challenge to businesses.
Secure Communication between IoT Devices: By utilizing the power of a Blockchain technology, the Internet of Things can enjoy secure communication in an IoT powered network. After all, the Blockchain technology would consider the communication as a transaction and hence ensure its integrity as it would of a transaction.
Taxation Issues: Though there are many benefits of Blockchain in the IoT ecosystem, it won't be easy and quick to fully implement the technology. For instance, there are legal issues that need to be taken care of before the technology's cross-border application.
There has been a mind-boggling rise in IoT cyber threats. Moreover, these threats won't decline as more and more devices are added to the IoT stream. To make the IoT ecosystem safe and protected from such threats, Blockchain is a potential technology that can play its role in securing the ecosystem where IoT lacks.