The world is full of connected devices – and more are coming. In 2017, there were an estimated 8.4 billion internet-enabled thermostats, cameras, streetlights, and other electronics. That number could exceed 20 billion by 2020, and there could be 500 billion or more by 2030. Because they’ll all be online at all times, each of these devices will be vulnerable to a cyberattack and could even be part of one.
Many “smart” internet-connected devices are made by large companies with well-known brand names, like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung. These have both the technological systems and marketing incentive to fix any security problems quickly.
Smaller devices proving challenging to secure
However, that’s not the case in the increasingly crowded world of smaller internet-enabled devices, like light bulbs, doorbells, and even packages shipped by UPS. Those devices are typically made by unknown companies, many in developing countries, without the funds or ability to incorporate strong security features.
Large technology companies work hard to keep users safe, but they have a difficult task monitoring thousands of complex software packages running all over the world. They will invariably have errors that make them vulnerable to hackers. When those teams find out about vulnerabilities, they are well positioned to program updates, and to send them out to users. For smaller firms, this is much more difficult. However, blockchain could change all that.
Blockchain could be the answer
Blockchain is a transaction-recording computer database that’s stored in several places at once. In a sense, it’s like a public bulletin board where people can post notices of transactions. Each post must be accompanied by a digital signature, which can never be changed or deleted.
It would be available to use in place of creating software update infrastructure the way the tech giants have. These smaller companies would have to program their products to check in with a blockchain system periodically to see if there was new software. Then they would securely upload their updates as they developed them. Each device would have a strong cryptographic identity, to ensure the manufacturer is communicating with the right device. As a result, device makers and their customers would know the equipment would efficiently keep its security up to date.
Furthermore, blockchain innovators will continue to find better ways, making it even easier for billions of “internet of things” devices to check in and update their security automatically.