How Blockchain Helps Mitigates The Threat of Ransomware

Blockchain is bolstering business networks by ensuring data is immutable and transparent. When used to describe blockchain, immutability means that data cannot be altered once a transaction has occurred and transparency means that all transactions can be seen by users, known as nodes, on a network. Organizations affected by the recent ransomware attacks should reevaluate their security strategy and implement blockchain to help fight against the negative effects of cyber attacks.

The massive ransomware attack known as WannaCry has ravaged Windows Operating systems across 150 countries and isn’t expected to yield to anytime soon. Ransomware locks data by encrypting information on a target’s computer and refusing to unlock it unless a ransom is paid. Even as Microsoft released a software patch addressing the security vulnerability, many computers won’t be updated and will inevitably be infected in the coming weeks. As the effects of the attack diminish, companies and individuals will push the memory of this breach to the side and forget the ignore the weaknesses in their networks…until the next attack. However, thinking the WannaCry ransomware attack is an isolated incident is the worst thing that can be done. Negligence will have disastrous effects as ransomware evolves. If nothing is done to address the need for data security, networks, once thought secure, will be locked and valuable information will be inaccessible.

Traditional cybersecurity firms would argue that annual penetration testing, network security reviews, and antivirus software will guarantee you near 100% security. This, however, is blatantly false as we see infections from malware and ransomware more common over the past 10 years even as more companies have adopted cybersecurity best practices. When one security researcher in England found a kill switch to WannaCry, the ransomware evolved within a matter of days to patch this error so that it could continue infecting computers. Vulnerabilities are ever-evolving which means that the traditional methods that advocate for annual services fail to secure your data on its most basic level. Once a hacker has access to your device or network, they have access to change, steal or lock you out of your data. This glaring security gap is one of the reasons that blockchain was created.

Blockchain technology, most commonly associated with the online currency bitcoin, is a method in which data is stored on an immutable and verified database that ensures the transactions are cryptographically proven before they are deemed true. Using encryption and peer to peer networks, blockchain ensures that all transactions are from their verified source, even as the source remains anonymous.

If you build a blockchain network that assigns private keys to computers to access data, you could secure the network at the hardware level. This means that when information is being pushed to the blockchain that each device is identified by its private encryption key that has to be present when transmitting data. For example, this would prevent a hacker from accessing your data because the don’t hold the device level encryption key because they are attempting to access your data from another computer. By only allowing known computers to access information on a network, breaches of information become less likely. Using Vergo’s permission based blockchain service, organizations can identify who on their network and who has the right to push information to the blockchain.

When hackers access your computer or network, they have the ability to read or change your files and sensitive information. For example, if a hacker were to infect a doctor’s computer using malware they could alter electronic personal health information known as ePHI or just outright steal it. Permission-based blockchain technology, used by Vergo, helps deny hackers the ability to alter information or lock users from their data. Our technology does that by restricting access to who can alter information on a specific database based on the rules and permissions a network administrator might put in place. With only certain computer having certain access to verified information it is easy for IT professionals to isolate an infected computer because they know what computers have specific access types. Even if a hacker locks you out of your data, blockchain can be useful to you. Because blockchain works through a peer-to-peer network, every computer running blockchain has a copy of all transactions on a network. That means that even if your specific computer is locked, you can access your information from someone who has a copy of the ledger.

Blockchain technology doesn’t prevent all threats and traditional cybersecurity practices such as penetration tests are important, however, these should be augmented with transactional level security features such as blockchain to ensure that data is trustworthy. In addition to blockchain and regular cybersecurity checks, organizations and individuals should perform regular backups of their data as well as use hardware level encryption, which directly encrypts information being sent from a device rather than encrypting the information in transit. This mitigates the risk of hackers stealing information directly from your device by using an operating system vulnerability such as WannaCry.