Blockchain making houses safer
Engineers are using blockchain technology to ensure the value of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum to combat the possibility of hackers breaking into today’s intelligent homes’ connected gadgets.
Domestic equipment intelligent enough to automate chores ranging from ordering Christmas gifts to turning on thermostats has expanded to millions of households throughout Europe in recent years.
This growing interconnectedness, dubbed the Internet of Things (IoT), draws a diverse variety of enthusiasts. However, according to Javier Augusto of Televes, an IT company in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, start-ups and tech firms are not the only ones interested in the notion; hackers are also. Televes is in charge of the EU-funded GHOST project, which aims to secure our home appliances via an electronic gateway that prevents attacks.
‘The gateway acts as a barrier between the smart appliances inside the house and the outside world,’ he says.
The partnership is leveraging improvements in blockchain technology to ensure that the gateways themselves stay uncorrupted.
‘Blockchain is software that crowdsources oversight,’ Augusto explained. ‘It works by providing each computer one piece of a puzzle that can only be solved by working together.’
Unlike cryptocurrencies, which employ blockchain to ensure that no two people spend the same currency, the GHOST project is modifying and utilizing the software to ensure that no outsiders tamper with the list of cyber threats hosted on its gateways.
‘Each linked item creates a new hole in the security of a computer network,’ Augusto explained. ‘It is unknown how secure today’s cybersecurity solutions can safeguard IoT devices. They were designed for internet protocols rather than Bluetooth or 4G.’
Intruders who breach into linked items such as activity trackers, intelligent fridges, or fire alarms, according to Augusto, could spread across home networks to acquire bank passwords or listen in on conversations.
GHOST partners’ gateways are meant to record encrypted data on all other gateways in their network. To fool the blockchain, a hacker must take control of half of the network’s machines.
‘In theory, blockchain technology ensures that our security gateways remain clean and up to date,’ Augusto said. ‘This would be a historic step forward in cybersecurity.’
He anticipates that the GHOST collaboration will field-test the initial aspects of their gadget in a prototype in 2019 and that the whole technology will be available by 2022.
However, according to Sergios Sources of Intracom Telecom, a technology business in Peania, Greece, IoT not only increases the chance of a cyber assault but also boosts the stakes. Breaches into household computers may be financially costly, but messing with a piece of dialysis equipment or a gas oven is a matter of life and death, he said. According to Sources, the first step in bulletproofing the IoT is to open it up. Although more appliances are becoming intelligent, he claims that few are yet talking – at least not with competing items.
This silo strategy, far from making them safer, puts each system at the mercy of its weakest connection. A single breach can potentially bring down an entire network of linked devices. It also squanders a chance for manufacturers to share mutually valuable data and produce additional high-tech services.
‘Today, the probes in many alarm systems know when their owner opens a window but have no method of turning off the smart air conditioning unit,’ Sources added. ‘Even if app developers wanted to make these machines operate together, there is no easy method to do so today.’ IoT devices do not even communicate in the same language.’
The EU-funded symbIoTe collaboration, led by Intracom, is creating software to allow IoT platforms to communicate with one another. Homeowners can upload it to enable gadgets to broadcast what data they record and inspect the credentials of anyone attempting to access them.
While not mainly dealing with blockchain, Sources anticipates that the symbIoTe add-on will be another instrument to boost IoT security. One advantage of its interface is that it allows homeowners to specify the sensitivity of each machine’s operations and how much authority is required to activate them.