Thwarting data manipulation means a manual audit log process, advanced user behavior analytics and countless man-hours. Blockchain removes these time consuming requirements.
Every year, the technology we use to defend our government
systems becomes more advanced. Over the past decade, we have witnessed the
evolution of the cloud, the internet of things, big data, artificial
intelligence and machine learning. As a result, we continue to accomplish more,
from building smarter, safer cities to developing self-driving cars to
enhancing data management so we can learn more about our world than ever
These technologies serve many purposes, but as a side
effect, they tend to make the government’s massive troves of data into an even
larger cyber threat surface. Too often we hear news stories about both
attempted and successful hacks in which highly sensitive information is stolen
What is more concerning is the attacks we don’t hear about,
often going unnoticed. This is data manipulation, when a bad actor accessing a
system alters information, rather than taking it. These kinds of breaches are
harder to detect, require meticulous monitoring to identify, and can be far
more disastrous to national security.
There’s no question we’re entering a new world when it comes
to cybersecurity. This is where blockchain comes in. Thwarting data
manipulation traditionally means a manual audit log process, advanced user
behavior analytics and countless man-hours. Blockchain, as opposed to hashing,
removes these time consuming requirements. Blockchain is a digital ledger in
which transactions or data are stored chronologically. A distributed ledger
holds one verified chain of information, and therein lies its value — data
manipulation attempts can be quickly identified and then rejected so the damage
The United States of blockchain
Generally speaking, any business can use blockchain for
better supply chain management, clearer contracts, faster payments and even
more secure background checks. Blockchain’s central ledger and thus central
authority-based design has made it particularly popular in the financial
services sector. Its sequence of information protects previous transactions in
the chain from being forged or destroyed, making it handy for secure, global
transactions and access controls. Banks can even use the increased transaction
transparency to develop better rewards and loyalty programs.
Government also needs foolproof security. The U.S.
government is no stranger to blockchain as a concept, having successfully
employed blockchain at agencies such as the Treasury Department for real-time
management of inventory. Many governments around the world already utilize it
to manage and share large volumes of data. It can be used to improve citizen
services like healthcare, matters like ownership transfer from wills, business
registration and more. Blockchain is even being used to store and protect
evidence in court cases to prevent tampering and ensure integrity. Its use in
infrastructure, such as power grids, reduces the number of central control
systems and thus reduces the threat surface for cyber attacks.
The future of blockchain
As mentioned previously, a single distributed ledger of data
means every change is at least noted and if necessary, rejected, making the
likelihood of undetected data manipulation low. It’s nearly impossible for a
hacker to change a full sequence of information on the scale at which federal
agencies store data. The bigger volume, the better — and that’s why blockchain
is perfect for defense.
As organizations and agencies gear up to implement
blockchain, many individuals are taking courses and pursuing certifications in
everything from basic concepts to blockchain development to decentralized
applications. As the technology advances, so will the fields and thus the
available training opportunities. The greatest threat to the blockchain is the
original code, so some companies are specifically positioning themselves to
assist with or directly perform an initial security audit of a distributed
ledger. While this sets certain organizations apart for the time being, strong
code will eventually be the norm among those implementing blockchain.
Blockchain will also help bolster existing security
measures, such as providing System and Organization Controls, or SOCs, with
better information to verify. SOCs are essential to mitigate threats, monitor
systems and respond to alerts, and more mature, efficient SOCs will reap the
greatest benefit from blockchain.
Road blocks and building blocks
While investments are being made further study blockchain
and build out implementation use cases to prove its value and effectiveness,
it’s still a long way from being fully implemented. Given that blockchain is in
its infancy, agencies are in a similar position as cloud implementation almost
a decade ago.
The barriers to implementation at this time mainly revolve
around the fact that many government agencies function independently, rather
than as a group. Collaboration and information sharing is crucial for
blockchain to become truly functional for defense agencies. Broken legacy technology
and strained resources also make it difficult to implement. Cloud adoption was
— and in some cases still is — slow to flourish. However, given the large,
distributed, and cloud-integrated systems and networks that our government now
does have in place, this creates the perfect foundation to effectively
implement blockchain solutions with a much lower risk of susceptibility.
Much like the other once-emerging technology, blockchain
will become more mainstream in the coming years. The technology will change
national security from a credential, logistical, audit and verification
Not only does blockchain offer a reliable, trustworthy
security approach, but it’s more cost-effective than any other available
technology. The ability to truly defend our nation’s most sensitive data
without fear of another hack gives our government and national security teams
the trust of its citizens, which is priceless in itself.
Mike Ewell is director of cybersecurity development at
Solutions By Design II, LLC in Vienna, Virginia. (Read the article on Fifth Domain)