Most people still do not know about the benefits of blockchain technology in the cybersecurity field. This is a solution that’ll also have a positive impact on Industry 4.0, where the widespread use of IoT systems, of Cloud, and of Artificial Intelligence will make industrial facilities attractive targets for cyber crime. Given the significance of its uses and its link with the digital transformation of businesses and public administrations, the discussion on blockchain technology is topical, to such a degree that the Government has decided to find a national ad hoc strategy for its use.
Blockchain, the domestic scene
The MiSE (Ministry for Economic Development) has selected and appointed a group of experts to define the National Strategy Paper: work is proceeding at a fast pace and the document should be completed by the end of this month. The Strategy Paper is split into three parts. The first part is descriptive and has already been delivered; the second part, which includes a list of use cases suggested by the experts for the Italian system, is about to be delivered. The third part with strategic recommendations will then follow, which will contain advice for the adoption of this technology at a national level. The final version of the document will subsequently be subjected to public consultation.
This is a very important route. To understand the interest in this technology, it is useful to look at what is being done in Europe and in the rest of the world. There are countries that are adopting blockchain-specific regulations. That’s what we must do as well because regulating aspects such as the legal value of smart contracts or ICOs (Initial Coin Offering) will allow us to attract capital and entrepreneurs and will enable a pervasive use of this technology. The country needs this regulation, it is fundamental.
Cybersecurity, three useful blockchain features
Like the blockchain, the cybersecurity theme is also very topical and a source of large investments. To name but one example, Exprivia|Italtel has launched a new cybersecurity offer consisting of advisory services, system integration, and managed security services, in order to support companies in designing and implementing their cybersecurity system. But how do these areas relate to one another? The blockchain represents an innovative approach to cybersecurity because it is a technology that allows the design of systems characterized by security by design. In this regard, we recall three fundamental aspects:
- Decentralization: the data contained in the blockchain are decentralized and verified, so if a system is properly distributed the concept of a single point of failure is eliminated. A hacker can still attack one of the nodes of the structure, but, to create significant damage, they should attack a substantial number of blockchain nodes, which is more difficult. Thanks to this tool, any system being built is already resilient by default.
- Anti-tampering: each block added makes the blockchain structure stronger. This is because each block contains a cryptographic reference to the previous block that can only be modified with the approval of network nodes: as the structure grows it becomes increasingly difficult for a hacker to break the chain and take control. I would like to mention one of my favorite authors, Nassim Taleb, introducing the concept of “Antifragile”. The blockchain systems adapt to attacks not unlike a Hydra, the multi-headed monster, so that even if one head gets cut off, the others remain.
- Zero proof knowledge: it’s a data protection concept that’s orthogonal to the blockchain. It’s about verifying the identity of a person without using their personal data—instead, this is done by verifying that they meet certain requirements. As an example, let us imagine that we are in a circular cave with a single exit and in the middle of it there’s a door with a combination lock. If you know the combination, you can exit the cave without publicly revealing it, while still proving that you know the information. This capability is very important because it allows you to store only non-sensitive information: even if the attack were successful, cyber criminals will never find confidential information. A concept that, if well developed, will greatly enhance cybersecurity practices.
This is what the blockchain can do for the cybersecurity field: it is not a panacea, but it can make a strong contribution to improving and simplifying cybersecurity.
Its uses in Industry 4.0 and in 5G
Industry 4.0 and 5G are areas of digital transformation that will generate important prospects for cybersecurity, primarily in the IoT area. With the arrival of 5G, the IoT will become very pervasive, there will be a massive adoption of such systems. Every day there will be millions of devices requiring authentication and a connection to centralized systems.
The blockchain can be useful both in authenticating and in understanding whether a device has been the object of an attack by a hacker or something less serious. This is the most practical application of the blockchain.
Exprivia|Italtel is working on the development of IoT solutions based on the blockchain: for example, we are building a blockchain-based use case for the protection of the country’s critical infrastructures.
How to convince entrepreneurs to embrace the blockchain
There are two main features that will make entrepreneurs and stakeholders understand that the blockchain is useful. First, the tax relief on investments are fundamental for the adoption of the new technology: the integration of blockchain solutions linked to Industry 4.0 or the 5G area, can benefit from Industry 4.0 funding.
Then, regulation is needed: the blockchain needs specific and precise legislation, otherwise, it cannot be adopted. The Simplification Law Decree represented a concrete first step, it will certainly be improved.
Finally, it is also necessary to provide information. In this field there is a lot of confusion on the subject, many people in Italy still believe that blockchain means Bitcoin: the “currency of the underworld”. It is not so. These are difficult technologies to understand, I’d suggest learning about them before criticizing.
Advice to companies
I recommend companies and public administrations to start experimenting with the blockchain. There are several solutions to get started. Exprivia|Italtel, for example, makes its Blockchain Lab available, which develops use cases and provides consultancy at various levels to all public and private companies that want to approach this technology.
With regard to the areas of action, I recommend developing the first investments in Industry 4.0, with experimentation in the IoT and supply chain field.