Day: September 4, 2017

How blockchain technology can transform the security industry – ZDNet


How blockchain technology can transform the security industry – ZDNet


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The blockchain not only has a place in cryptocurrency exchanges but could also be used to improve security solutions, experts claim.

According to Travis Biehn, technical strategist at enterprise software and solutions firm Synopsys, the blockchain is “no silver bullet” for security, but the technology holds promise as a way not only to record financial transactions but also as a means to control network communication, as well as Internet of Things (IoT) devices and supply chains.

Originally designed to facilitate the exchange of virtual currency such as Bitcoin, the blockchain is an electronic ledger system which is decentralized by nature.

There is no central holding system that stores data relating to transactions, trades, sources, and activity, but rather information is distributed throughout the world by computers, also known as nodes, which carry the record of the chain with them.

“The decentralized systems that can be built with blockchain are exciting and applicable across cybersecurity topics — with promising areas like addressing hardware sourcing supply-chain problems, and software supply-chain problems,” Biehn told ZDNet. “The increased transparency afforded by blockchain technology definitely lends itself to solving a lot of tricky cybersecurity problems.”

It is not always software vulnerabilities which can lead to a security problem such as a data breach or a network compromise — the supply chain can also be at fault.

When human error comes into play or an insider manipulates information or systems in the supply chain, the blockchain could resolve issues by automatically sharing any suspicious activity down the line.

When everyone participating knows who is doing what, and when, lax security, errors, and insider threats can be tracked and hopefully dealt with before serious damage is caused.

“If you look at other ways of doing this, if a single database were shared for example, or a traditional leader-election protocol were used, any one of the members can change the data-store at any time,” the executive explained. “In applications like identity or supply-chain tracking, you obviously don’t want a consumer of the data to be able, or someone who has compromised a participant, to change all the information in that ledger.”

Smart Contracts can also come into play. These small pieces of code are stored on each node throughout the blockchain network and enforce what actions can be executed.

These actions must achieve the same result when executed by computers connected to the blockchain. As participants can be sure of events, who enacted them, and the logic connected to them, this inspires greater trust in the ‘contract’ and systems, as well as that an outcome is correct.

“For supply chain issues of both hardware and software components, and identity solutions, blockchain platforms look promising,” Biehn said.

The blockchain itself provides little in terms of threat detection or defense in the manner of traditional cybersecurity solutions, but it does offer an infrastructure of transparency, event tracking, cryptography and the chance to improve security sensor and data sharing — which some security solutions and implementations on enterprise networks lack.

It is important not to jump head-first into implementing technology still at a stage of infancy — we learned such with the constant security issues that the wholesale adoption of IoT devices without acceptable security has shown.

However, in an age when trust in systems is critical, we may yet see the blockchain integrated into systems which handle sensitive data and financial transactions, or control IoT and mobile devices. The technology may also provide a trustworthy infrastructure for vendors to better retain control of enterprise networks, who does what on them, and as a means to tackle weak spots in security protocols.

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Technology will not save the world — we will – Financial Times


Technology will not save the world — we will – Financial Times

I have a copy of a long-forgotten 1987 book by Arthur C Clarke: July 20, 2019: Life in the 21st century. I did not plan on mentioning it until the 50th anniversary of the first moon landings, which its title reflects. But I am breaking my own embargo because re-reading it has given me new insight.

Clarke, a science-fiction writer, was also no slouch as a futurologist. His fictional HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he co-wrote, presages many of today’s fears about artificial intelligence. He was also a real scientist who, in a 1945 article, proposed communications satellites.

Unless things change in the next 23 months, July 20, 2019 is wrong in almost every detail. Clarke suggests, for example, “amplifiers” to make us more intelligent — but makes no mention of the internet, which was in development at the time and was predicted 15 years earlier by Joseph Licklider of MIT, when he was working at the US defence department.

Being wrong is just one problem I have with Clarke’s book. Like most future-gazing, it sees tomorrow entirely in terms of technology.

Today’s version of Clarke’s vision is that of tech as humanity’s saviour. It is overblown, and it is gathering momentum. Indeed, this relentless yapping is like some overheated PR campaign for the arrogant, prematurely moneyed young lords of Silicon Valley. There is a messianic tone that our descendants will laugh at. “[By], say, 2045, we will have multiplied . . . the human biological machine intelligence of our civilisation a billion-fold,” says Google’s Ray Kurzweil.

Technology is marvellous, but it has had little or nothing to do with the best things about the world. And it will play a minor role in casting out humanity’s worst demons: poverty, ignorance and madness. What do I mean by the best things? The outlawing of racism; rights for disabled people; emancipation for women. The primacy of reason; the dwindling of superstition. Democracy, social security, animal rights, greater life expectancy and, yes, capitalism.

We are better at judgment than any machine we will be able to make for a very long time to come. Technology is only the agent of our desires

Sure, hygiene and medicine are technology, but the idea to distribute their benefits to all through innovations such as sewers, socialised medicine and refrigeration could only come from human empathy and creativity.

Technology, from electric lighting to washing machines to the internet, has aided progress. But it is only part of the future. Machines help solve the “how”, not the “what” nor the “why”.

I love what technology is doing for the developing world, where progress is most needed. I have written recently about ideas such as Ugogo Africa, a proposed online service that wants to enable artisans without bank accounts to sell their products globally. Genius. Even better for the developing world will be universal education, the elimination of corruption, the rule of law, perhaps democracy, although that is on my B-list. Technology will play its part, but it will not be essential.

Last week, I ran this seditious notion past two big brains. First was Marc Demarest, an Oregon-based digital thinker and author. He agrees that Silicon Valley’s incessant riff is self-serving. “Like the president of the US, no statement is too outrageous, too extreme, too under-nuanced,” he says.

But he believes technology’s torrent of data tells us truths “minus our nasty predisposition to get distracted, to miss the moment, and to bend data to make it mean what we want it to mean”.

“It is in most respects a better version of us. And [gathering data] is mostly done, one way or another, to improve the human lot.”

Making sense of data, however, will remain a human activity, he says. “We are better at judgment than any machine we will be able to make for a very long time to come. Technology is only the agent of our desires. It isn’t the future; we are the future.”

I then had a drink — several, actually — with a friend who works in product development for a tech company.

“I shouldn’t say this,” she said after cocktail number three, “but we just make cool s*** people love. You’re right. We’re not progressing humanity or changing the world, are we? “That’s what ideas do, and machines don’t have ideas.”

Funny. Even Clarke stopped short of predicting machines with imaginations.

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