Blockchain Security Research
Blockchain Security Research
Industrial enthusiasts look forward with a lot of aspirations on the evolution of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and 5th Generation (5G) communication networks across different technological contexts such as manufacturing, agriculture, automotive, healthcare, energy markets and so on. Information security is a prominent concern in mission critical IIoT applications and the requirements are diverse in the diﬀerent applications. The smart contract and distributed ledger technologies are the next generation’s promising technology enablers which operate with decentralization and immutable public ledger. Blockchain is one of the most promising technology enablers for different IIoT applications with distinguishing capabilities.
Overview of blockchain
Blockchain provides a system for recording information with cryptographical verification and enforces immutability with digital signatures. A blockchain is essentially a ledger in digital form where the transactions are replicated and distributed across the entire network of computer systems on the blockchain. The transactions are grouped into blocks that are cryptographically verified with digital signatures and essentially, each block has been approved within the group of members. Each block in the chain contains elements such as the previous block’s hash, transactions, and timestamp. Since the transactions are publicly available across the member network, a malicious party cannot easily change the transaction data when compared to the centralized data storage systems.
The blockchain networks operate on different operation modes, mainly as public and consortium. Bitcoin and Etherum are two of the most popular public blockchains. Public blockchain enables any party to link with the blockchain network as a contributor. Consensus is one of the key principles in the blockchain context. Consensus is the new block finalization process. Proof of Work is a key consensus mechanism used in Ethereum and Bitcoin-like public blockchain frameworks.
How the blockchain works
The blockchain is entirely based on the principle of digital signatures. The external entities such as IIoT ecosystems input the data towards the blockchain as transactions. Transactions include the data to be recorded in the blockchain. For instance, healthcare systems record patient monitoring details in the blockchain. Each transaction has been verified for the digital signatures and included in the new block. The new block has to be approved by the members upon the consensus agreement process.
Applications of blockchain in future
Modern medical organizations have mostly evolved with automation techniques to handle the myriad volume of patients. The IoT integration is a wider domain including remote treatments and real-time monitoring. Almost all healthcare systems are required to comply with international standards such as the Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act (HIPAA). Blockchain technology and smart contracts can be applied to enable the health information management systems to ensure privacy, integrity and access control to achieve regulatory compliance along with the enhanced patient experience (Example 1, Example 2, and Example 3).
The self-executory, immutable, and distributed nature of blockchain-based smart contracts revamp the financial industry in a few dimensions by solving many issues and limitations. Smart contracts guarantee the defined operation to be executed on a certain condition of the system. There are many competitive advantages of adapting blockchain for different applications such as Know Your Customer, cryptocurrency payments, loyalty payments and so on. However, due to statutory regulations, blockchain-based cryptocurrency is not accepted as a usable payment method in most nations (Example 1 and Example 2).
Transformation of the government services towards electronic infrastructure grabbed attention by most of the nations including Europe, Asia, and many other regions. From the electronic services of the government, the stakeholders anticipate different features. These include Confidentiality, accuracy and improved efficiency. The increased population and complexity of the human needs escalated the requirement of automation to cope with enormous demand. Beyond the eGovernment services, personal data handling is also an important expectation of modern eGovernment services. Blockchain and smart contracts are some of the most promising solutions with significant features for eGovernment services as well as legal enforcement. Blockchain provides extensibility for robust access control (Example).
Real estate and asset management
The application of blockchain-based smart contracts will be the next generation solution for real estate and asset management to revolutionize the industry. The integration of blockchain provides a decentralized ledger and eliminates the trusted third party. Furthermore, the real estate, as well as the assets, can be converted into crypto assets, which can be traded within the network without involving a trusted third party (Example).
Importance of blockchain as a research direction in information security
The context of blockchain is still evolving in most contexts. Therefore, a lot of research opportunities can be identified in different contexts. Since the domain is evolving and a lot of research is in progress, it is comparably easier to identify limitations and problems of existing work which can be extended as baselines in any early-stage researcher’s problem definitions. For example, blockchain provides a public ledger. Therefore, an early-stage researcher, either a PhD student or a master’s student can easily define his own novel invention for privacy preservation on the blockchain. Furthermore, the consensus protocols are extremely computational resource intensive. Therefore, an early-stage researcher can define his own research based on an optimized consensus protocol. Likewise, there are many research opportunities available in the context of blockchain, which is an ideal thesis topic for a master’s student who anticipates pursuing a doctoral degree in the context of information security.
Learning the cryptographic principles by heart is the key to accessing a wide array of opportunities available in higher studies. The concept of digital signatures, hashing, asymmetric and symmetric key cryptography is required to formulate a significant research problem in master’s or doctoral research. The Master of Science Programme offered by the University of Colombo School of Computing is the best Postgraduate Programme to open up overseas higher studies opportunities (Cryptography jobs-International, Jobnorge, and PhD/Master opportunities in Finland).