The Internet of (Insecure) Things: Could Blockchain Be the Solution?

The Internet of Things is taking a while to get off the ground. And with so many high-profile hacking attacks and PR disasters affecting big players like Yahoo and Jeep, it’s hardly surprising. The Internet of Things is looking a lot more like the Internet of Insecure Things, as parents watch their children’s smart dolls being hacked and patients worry about who’s controlling their cardiac devices.

According to a survey by Gemalto, a staggering 96 percent of businesses and 90 percent of consumers believe that there is a need for better security around IoT applications. Most consumers fear that hackers will take control of their devices and cause them to malfunction or break. And 60 percent of us are concerned about our data being leaked or stolen. At this juncture, we may be a long way from finding a secure solution for integrating IoT technology fully into our lives.

Yet, despite fears over the security of IoT technology, we’re still using it (albeit nervously) quite a lot. Gartner research revealed that some 8.4 billion connected “things” were in use last year – and that number is expected to rise to 20.4 billion by 2020. But, of course, the wider the adoption of the technology, the greater the opportunities for innovative hackers.

Why is IoT Technology So Vulnerable?

Even if you don’t follow the industry closely, you probably haven’t escaped the headlines about high-profile IoT hacks: self-driving cars out of control, hospital equipment being tampered with, and the like. Over the last few years, the main security breaches have been achieved by cracking weak passwords on IoT devices.

In what are called DDoS attacks, cyber criminals find vulnerable devices to prey on and take control of. Cybersecurity professionals are more than familiar with these types of attacks, but IoT has seen an explosion in their frequency and potency. The more devices that are out there, the more passwords there are, and the greater the opportunity.

“It’s clear that both consumers and businesses have serious concerns around IoT security, and little confidence that IoT service providers and device manufacturers will be able to protect IoT devices,” says Jason Hart, Chief Technology Officer at Gemalto.

Could Blockchain be the Answer to IoT Insecurity?

Blockchain technology could certainly play a key part in securing IoT devices, thanks to its cryptography and decentralization. As IoT technology grows, scaling it will prove increasingly challenging through centralized models vulnerable to DDoS attacks. With blockchain tech, consumer data could remain private and secure, even with billions of devices connected. Thanks to the way it authenticates users and devices with multi-factor authentication, blockchain could remove the threat of crackable passwords, making IoT devices significantly harder to hack.

In fact, blockchains are already experiencing success when it comes to IoT. IBM’s Watson IoT platform allows devices to send data to a blockchain to be included in tamper-resistant records and shared transactions, while validating transactions through smart contracts. Telstra is also using a blockchain effectively to secure smart home IoT ecosystems. Biometric authentication allows them to verify the identity of devices’ owners.

Blockchain could be the answer to IoT’s insecurity. The problem that remains is convincing nine out of ten people that their devices are in fact secure.