Blockchain: a unique technology which is revolutionizing IT security in the digital age. Perhaps most well-known as the technology behind Bitcoin, blockchain technology has ramifications far beyond online currency. What is blockchain technology, what can it do now, and what will do for years to come?
What is Blockchain?
Blockchain refers to a method of encrypting data so that each iteration refers back to all previous iterations. No one part of a blockchain can be altered without recreating the entire set. These chains of data are then held on multiple sites in order to make them very difficult to falsify. Blockchain in its present incarnation acts as a much-needed partner to the digital age, in which confidential data must often be shared securely among a vast number of people. Data in a blockchain is generally of a kind that needs to be viewable by anyone but alterable only by those privileged gatekeepers with permission to do so. A blockchain always maintains a secure record of an object’s history and any changes made along the way to the present time.
Who is Using Blockchain Now?
In addition to bitcoin, blockchain applications are on the rise. For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is currently working on Mojaloop, a blockchain-inspired application which helps citizens of developing nations to trade in the global marketplace. If nothing else, this project shows how important online access to funds has become, especially on the margins of the global marketplace. Bitcoin and other online currencies have already changed the way we do business, side-stepping government regulations and providing an outlet for various revenue streams which would otherwise be blocked. Meanwhile, the federal government is starting to use Keyless Signature Structure (KSI) to replace digital keys as a secure way of digitally signing documents. In online security, especially end-user identification, blockchain represents opportunities for any business which wants to be able to 1) securely store individual credentials 2) in ways which cannot be falsified or modified later but 3) can be easily and securely accessed as needed in order to verify identity.
Blockchain has disrupted and will continue to disrupt the way the global market functions, who gets to take part in it, and how individual players are evaluated. Even more so, however, blockchain has helped to set the stage for the next period of evolution of the digital age.
The Present and Future of Blockchain
The Blockchain is all about data security and integrity in an increasingly decentralized age where business begins to move to the digital “cloud.” While there are many encryption technologies out there and blockchain is not always the ideal solution for a given problem, it continues to at least prove an inspiration to developers looking to make products which are secure but at the same time universally accessible. Bitcoin, and blockchain in general, is perhaps best viewed as a sign of the times, a way to take the pulse of an increasingly interdependent global economy.
IT security will doubtless continue to use blockchain in a variety of ways. However, it is also inevitable that problems caused by blockchain will suggest the need for other solutions, leading to new problems and new solutions. Perhaps one day DNS providers like Dyn will use blockchain to help encrypt their services and thwart future attacks. Then again, maybe they can do better still, safeguarding user privacy while verifying identity. Regardless, questions and possibilities presented by this technology are raising the bar in terms of security, safety, and what matters most.
In many ways, blockchain technology stands at the forefront of an ongoing compromise necessary to move in the digital age, the compromise between privacy and security. As any good detective will say, “follow the money.” Following the money, in this case, tracking bitcoin and related technologies, gives us insight into the future of IT and the world as we know it. Wherever the future leads, we can be sure that blockchain and similar technologies will be a key part of that future – because that’s where the money is, and money doesn’t lie. Remember, the future works best when it remembers the past accurately, where things were before and how we got to where we are now. After all, that’s what blockchain is really all about.
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