Blockchain technology is currently being hailed as, well, many things. In any given day you might see it called a disruptor or the future of financial transactions or the answer to data storage and digital identity issues or the technology that will finally put an end to DDoS attacks.
New technologies are never a stranger to massive hype, and the digital landscape is littered with technologies that failed to reach their lofty expectations, and yet, blockchain is looking like it could very well be the real deal and might just become all of the above. Before it can become the answer to the widespread and devastating DDoS attack problem, however, there are a few blockchain cybersecurity issues that need to be addressed.
At its core, blockchain is an ever-growing ledger that records transactions. Each transaction’s data is housed in a so-called block and secured via cryptography. Each block also contains a timestamp as well as a cryptographic hash of the content of the block that came before it. This cryptographic hash is what connects each block to the previous block, creating a chain. Ergo, blockchain.
This technology offers a few important benefits over standard transaction technology. Firstly, it eliminates the middleman. If Alexis in Idaho wants to transfer ten Bitcoins to Ashik in Bangladesh, she doesn’t have to go to Western Union or call her bank or consult a lawyer. She simply creates a record in the blockchain. No fees spent, no time wasted. All a transaction needs is data, and that data is securely stored in the blockchain.
Secondly, there is no way to alter a block in the blockchain without altering every block that came after it, as the cryptographic hash in each block depends on the content of the blocks that came before it. Essentially, then, there is no way to alter a block in the blockchain as it would simply require too much collusion.
Thirdly, the very nature of blockchain technology decentralizes data by storing copies of the blockchain across nodes in a peer to peer network instead of in a centralized location, such as a database. There is therefore no one point hackers could crack into in order to access a trove of valuable data. Even if it were possible to get past blockchain’s cryptography, hackers would have to do so one block at a time – a process too burdensome for even the most dedicated cybercriminals.
At this point, you probably have to admit blockchain technology sounds pretty good, but you might be wondering how exactly it’s supposed to become the next big development in DDoS protection.
Denying denial of service?
Blockchain technology in and of itself is impervious to distributed denial of service attacks because of that decentralized nature. Attackers can’t take down a blockchain because it’s spread too widely across the internet.
If financial institutions and other organizations get on board with blockchain technology for transactions, then services related to those transactions are theoretically protected from the threat of DDoS-caused downtime. However, as has been evidenced by the myriad successful DDoS attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges – all of which use blockchain technology for transactions – it isn’t enough for the transaction process to be impervious to these attacks.
This is because even companies or services that have their core business processes taking place on blockchain still require web servers, even if it isn’t for a public-facing website. These servers – which are centralized – represent a single point of failure to DDoS attackers. Take down the server, take down a swath of applications and functions, deny services. This is how margin traders end up losing their minds unable to buy and sell cryptocurrency during DDoS attacks on exchanges, and it’s how businesses of all types will end up being let down if they think blockchain technology on its own right now spells the end of DDoS woes.
Looking to the future
In addition to blockchain technology helping to make DDoS attacks harder to accomplish, it may also be put to work as a direct DDoS mitigation measure in the near future as the idea of making it possible for the average person to make their excess bandwidth available for a per-use fee is currently being explored. This would make bandwidth available in a decentralized blockchain-style manner, as opposed to the centralized bank of bandwidth some DDoS mitigation solutions use, a solution that can be both finite and expensive if the mitigation solution lacks the scalability of the cloud. The idea of the poolable, blockchain-style bandwidth is to increase the resources readily available to absorb DDoS traffic, thereby making attacks cheaper to mitigate and less likely to be successful with attempts and therefore less damaging to the target.
However, while blockchain technology gets to work living up to its heady expectations, businesses who have already hopped on the blockchain bandwagon should get to work protecting that technological investment with scalable cloud-based DDoS protection and/or a leading web application firewall that can shore up vulnerable or weak points while improving availability. A content delivery network may also be an optimal solution depending on how a service’s user base is geographically dispersed, how much content is cacheable, and whether or not any page load time or performance issues are being experienced. With a helping hand from trusted, established technology, the new kid on the disruptor technology block might just become everything it’s supposed to.