Cybersecurity advisor Jeff Neithercutt promotes the use of blockchain technology to protect privacy for individuals and organizations. If you’ve heard a bit about how blockchain works, you might be wondering how it applies to you and your relationships with vendors, social media companies, and intermediaries (banks, lawyers, brokers, etc.).
What is Blockchain Technology?
Blockchain technology can be difficult to define in simple terms. It is an emerging field with vast implications for nearly every industry.
According to Jeff Neithercutt, it is best to think of blockchain as a powerfully secure digital ledger.
Just a few years ago, most adults were balancing their checkbooks on a physical ledger the size of their personal checks. Most of us now sign-in to our bank accounts and view our transactions on a digital ledger.
Blockchain is a digital ledger that offers the most robust encryption and cybersecurity measures to date. It empowers individuals to protect their sensitive information while allowing them to move freely about the web where sensitive information is required.
What are Private Keys?
Jeff Neithercutt points out that Apple users enjoy encryption benefits like Apple Keychain and recommended passwords while setting up online accounts. Additionally, Google, social media accounts, and online banking encourage “two-step confirmation” for securing your account.
These are somewhat primitive examples of private keys. In blockchain technology, a single piece of data possesses a private key declaring ownership for whoever owns or created the data. It further joins a “chain” of interlocking data wherein each block only trusts the private key.
Without the private key, not only will the single block lock down, but the entire chain locks down as well. As part of the lockdown process, the blockchain notifies the owner of the data. No entity lacking the private key may add to the digital ledger, and any existing data may never be removed from the digital ledger.
The Main Benefits of Blockchain to Protect Sensitive Information
Jeff Neithercutt admits that blockchain technology is as effective as it is complex. By breaking down each benefit, it may begin to make more sense.
Encryption is data scrambling. In one sense, data encryption gives you anonymity to engage and transact online without comprising your identity. But in another sense, it publicizes certain data (with your permission) behind an impenetrable “glass wall.”
Hackers that crack your password successfully arrive in your digital vault of sensitive information only to find a sea of gibberish. Only those with the private key (often a digital puzzle that only your true identity can solve) can view the unscrambled data.
Zero Knowledge Storage
One of the more astounding advantages of blockchain technology is how each block intrinsically knows nothing about the data it stores.
In the Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman movie, The Prestige, Hugh Jackman’s character is a suspicious and obsessive magician. He is so protective of his illusions that he hires highly-functional blind assistants to move his cargo from place to place. Should his rival magician attempt to bribe an assistant, the assistant’s lack of sight would render them useless.
The blocks in a blockchain are like blind bouncers guarding each piece of your sensitive information: they do not know what they handle and thus the information remains secure.
A Decentralized, Immutable Ledger
In a blockchain, the sum total of your private information is sent throughout an entire network of zero-knowledge storage. If an unknown entity tries to add to or tamper with any part of the chain, the entire network responds.
No one block contains every piece of the data. Each block only trusts the other blocks in the chain. Only the private key allows someone or something to add to the digital ledger. Further, the private key will not allow the owner to lose any piece of the blockchain.
End Result: Information Privacy
The ability of blockchain technology to protect your privacy is almost too good to be true. Experts predict that blockchain can do more than simply protect your sensitive information: it can enable you to do business without any intermediaries.
For example, legal matters often require legal intermediaries in the form of lawyers. Attorneys verify the data from both sides while also protecting the privacy of each party. One day, blockchain may be able to enable legal actions without any need for legal intermediaries.
Jeff Neithercutt concludes that blockchain is already disrupting modern banking, government agencies, and eCommerce. The full potential of privacy protection offered by blockchain technology is still unknown.