By Ludovic F. Rembert, Head of Research at Privacy Canada.
The Internet of things (IoT) and blockchain are among the latest buzzwords with steadily increasing popularity since the time of their creation. It’s no exaggeration when we say that the IoT is soon going to be a part of our day-to-day activities to make lives easier and more convenient.
However, this convenience might come with a price. Specifically, companies using IoT are plagued with frequent breaches of privacy. While these companies do implement important security measures, there is still no guarantee of safety.
After reports pointed out that IoT can benefit from the decentralized mechanism of blockchain technology, people across the globe were intrigued. Luckily, it’s turned out that blockchain can, in fact, enable usage tracing, logging service issues, and boost security to help ensure the safety of IoT networks.
In this article, we’ll explore the possibilities further by discussing three unique blockchain design patterns that companies can deploy based on the use of wallets, which contain public and private keepers to create and access user data.
Let’s get to it!
Blockchain technology for IoT devices
Hackers are increasingly coming up with innovative ways to mess with your IoT devices.
This is precisely why IoT architects and administrators need to quickly develop a system with performance and trustworthiness aspects that are top-notch to automate traditionally manual processes and streamline operations. Automation is ultimately one of the most effective ways to better organize your business and improve efficiency.
To ensure this happens, companies can deploy either of the following blockchain patterns:
Under this blockchain pattern, all data and control flows are centrally managed by the platform tier. In other words, it’s the central platform that makes all the decisions and controls the wallet.
For instance, the central platform will monitor the data coming in from the vehicles in the field and then log it in the time-series database of the platform. The unique thing here is that only vital events are logged into the system to prevent blockchain overload.
In this case, it‘s assumed that every asset has an embedded wallet to sign and access its data on the blockchain. The other belief is that the embedded wallet will be the only way to get access to the data related to every asset.
You can even consider the trusted platform module (TPM) technology as an example. This technology can implement specialized hardware that cannot be tampered with under any circumstances in the field and can also provide secure storage of the corresponding wallet. The software of this hardware is directly deployed on the asset, which then helps determine the data that will be written on the blockchain.
The problem with this blockchain pattern is that it needs custom hardware that can be quite expensive. In addition to this, even the development and maintenance cost is relatively high due to the fully distributed nature of the system.
Smart Contracts Enhancement
The specialty of this blockchain pattern is that you can integrate it into either of the two above patterns. Having a smart contract allows the independent execution of business logic between stakeholders, while simultaneously embedding business logic into the blockchain.
Both the logged data and the business logic become tamper-proof due to the distributed and cryptographic nature of blockchain. The execution will only take place if the maturity of distributed nodes in the blockchain is in agreement about the outcome of a specific decision.
As you can see, all these three patterns are certainly unique and can be helpful for promoting the security of the overall IoT system, irrespective of the industry niche. This system of innovative compliant integration and distributed ledger technology can be useful for keeping imminent threats at bay.
Using blockchain technology for strengthening IoT security
We live in an era where attacks upon laptops, mobile devices, and IoT devices are launched every 39 seconds, which means that our devices have never been more at risk than they are now. Fortunately, there are several ways in which you can use blockchain technology for a more secure application of IoT.
While the verdict is still out about AI and blockchain compatibility, the latter can definitely be useful in establishing a trusted and secure configuration for IoT devices. You can figure this out in two ways:
- Approach #1: IoT properties, such as configuration details and last validated version firmware, can be hosted on the ledger. During bootstrap, the configuration has to be encrypted in the ledger after it’s requested from the ledger through the blockchain node. This will then make sure that the IoT network topology or its properties remain concealed despite the analysis of the data stored in the public ledger.
- Approach #2: The latest configuration file of every device has a hash value that can be hosted in the ledger. The IoT device will have to download the latest and trusted configuration file through a cloud service for every fixed period of time. The device can then retrieve and match the hash value via the blockchain node API, which is stored in the blockchain itself. Doing this will allow the administrators to remove any bad configurations on a regular basis as well as reboot every IoT device that is connected to the network with the latest configurations.
Remember, the whole foundation of IoT technology is based on secure communication between devices. Blockchain can help to facilitate this data exchange through processing a transaction and then storing it in a ledger. At the same time, companies can use these ledgers for storing encryption keys to make the exchanges more private.
In the case of IoT, the sender digitally signs the message before sending it to other devices. The receiving device is then allotted a public key from the ledger and then uses it for verifying the digital signature of the message received. It’s a whole process that can be useful for authenticating the involved parties, keeping the message confidential.
It starts with a sender calculating the hash of a message, which is then encrypted with its private key. The message, along with a digital signature is then transmitted to the receiver, who then decrypts the digital signature using the public key of the sender that is stored in the ledger to get the hash value (as calculated by the sender). The sent message is validated only when the calculated hash and protected hash of the message match. As a result, the trustworthiness of the retrieved messages improves when the digital signature of every message gets stored into the ledger.
Today, the general public is more aware of the importance of taking measures for maintaining online privacy and preventing data compromises. But at the same time, hackers are also developing sophisticated methods of hacking to the point that it can become very difficult to know whether one has even been hacked.
This is precisely why security measures need to be taken to the next level. In this case, an IoT device can send an encrypted message using the public key of the destination device before storing it in the blockchain network. The sender then asks its network node to get the public key of the receiver of the ledger and then encrypts the message using the public key of the receiver. Hence, only the receiver will be able to decrypt the message through his private key.
Blockchain and IoT are some of the latest technologies that can completely overhaul existing critical processes and facilitate business process management. Together, they have the potential to make our daily lives easier, provided the technology is used carefully.
Plus, IoT devices with a blockchain network eliminates any single authority. This gives every connected device a copy of the ever-growing chain of data. A transaction is stored in a block only after it’s been validated and is then passed on to the other nodes of the network. All of this helps to make our IoT systems more secure, blocking any unauthorized access and making security breaches nearly impossible.