Opinion Application of Blockchain as a means of Crypto Security

Application of Blockchain as a means of Crypto Security

April 13, 2019

The possible uses for blockchain, especially in the general public, seem to be only becoming more and more numerous. This is a process that has been vexing many individuals, especially those who have more knowledge and experience than an average media consumer.

In this domain of “blockchain can and will do everything and anything” there is a constant stream of news that is often hard to understand. On one hand, people in the financial, regulatory and government sector are quick to come out against cryptocurrencies that already exist in the world. This is a well-documented phenomenon for those who are bitcoin detractors in one shape or another. Yet, often the same individuals will go on record and say that they have marvelous expectation from blockchain tech itself. From becoming a tech that saves everyone’s time and money to a technology that completely revolutionized the modern world, many clearly have great expectations of it.

However, just like criticism, this huge praise often comes from domains that are in the best case scenario poorly informed. Still, in this huge jumble of information, there are some domains of blockchain use that are drastically underreported, even though they could become really important. Among this cybersecurity is probably one of the most prominent examples of a field that will likely offer much, but one that is very rarely discussed in the public domain.

US Department of Energy Initiative

The most recent development in the same domain of blockchain security services and application comes from the United States. The Department of Energy revealed that it is exploring this tech as a line of potential defense. The defense is related to a cyber attack on the country’s power plants. NELT or the National Energy Technology Laboratory of this department stated on Wednesday that the second phase of the security project was launched.

It is aimed at the security of the electric grid and it was completed in the partnership with the cybersecurity company called Taekion. This startup was formerly known as Grid7. The lab gave a grant of $1 million to the startup in 2018. Now a part of the second phase will be the research of the blockchain tech and its use in security power plants, mainly by keeping all actuators, sensor and device information transaction on a distributed ledger.

NETL stated that accurate information on the status of individual power plant operations is essential for the security of the entire electric grid. In that case, if the data storage is decentralized, a chance of any single point of failure is non-existent. The idea is very clever and actually, it addresses the issue of the data storage as the main problem of cybersecurity in power plants and other industrial locations.

Vector of Attack

An example of a possible cyber attack on a power plant is based on the manipulation of data coming from different parts of the plant. Simply put, the hacking attack would make a part of the plant shut down while at the same time it would single that it is actually operational. A simple setup like that could leave millions without power. An example of such attack already occurred at a Ukrainian power plant in 2016.

Back then, this causes widespread outages during the critical cold winter months. There are many other expenses of both potential and actual attacks that utilize the same principle. In fact, the possible damage that could be attained with this approach is even bigger when the manipulation is more sophisticated.

Several years ago, a hacking attack managed to destroy a pump in a water treatment facility in the US by sending it a command to quickly turn on and shut down the same machine. The cycle was beyond the safe operating parameters and it fused the entire industrial pump into a wreckage.

Additionally, the entire Stuxnet virus that attacked the Iranian nuclear program most likely utilized a very similar principle. The idea in all of them is very simple, but the possible fallout could be huge. Right now, the situation in Venezuela with its constant power failure seems very similar to one such prolonged attacked, even though this has not been proven so far.

Project Management as Protection

NELT believe that their applications have the potential to stop the possibility of those such attacks. They will be used to prevent hackers from successfully altering the operational information of any plant – basically, they will make sure that the information being stored is the accurate one. In this case, the solution to the problem is purely digital, like in many other domains similar to security on social media or esports, for example.

Instead of doing things that would secure individual elements in plants, the decentralized system of storing information makes sure that no information manipulation is possible. With blockchain, the possibility of changing the cooling of nuclear power rods and changing a single small sensor is equally unlikely. In both cases, the blockchain checks the information across all of the numerous nodes that hold the same data.

Taekion is planning on developing other applications as well that would be able to secure energy transactions in the process of data protection. The facilities that would be more secure include the power plants, but also grid as a whole that would see its reliability shoot up. This would also provide the chance to make these organizations more open to the application of blockchain.

Blockchain as Security

The notion of using blockchain for this purpose is completely valid. However, there is an additional factor to this narrative and those are viability and direct application. Recent decades showed that the process of transforming the traditional grids to the smart alternatives took many years and a huge financial investment.

The same would be more or less true for the application of blockchain in a security role. The sums that Taekion got are only on the level of viability studies and they do not represent the actual usable solutions that power plants could apply. Because of this, the road for the application of blockchain in security roles is by no means around the corner in the US, as well as anywhere else for that matter.