Author: Scott Doudera, Information Technology Page 1 of 3

The Future of Blockchain

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Blockchain is a public record of transactions, known as a ledger, that is recorded and duplicated across a distributed computer network secured using cryptography. In the case of Bitcoin (one of the most well-known blockchain-based currencies), every time a Bitcoin transaction takes place, it’s recorded in the ledger for all to see. While the ledger is public (typically in blockchains), the data is anonymous and encrypted.

“blockchain: A public, permanent, append only ledger for storing and verifying transactions”

In an active blockchain, there are often thousands of machines around the world owned by different people participating in the blockchain at any given time; each node serves as a redundant copy of the ledger. To add new transactions to the ledger requires consensus among the majority of participants at any given time. The goal: to make it very difficult and expensive for hackers to maliciously alter the blockchain.

“There is potential for Blockchain to be utilized in every industry”

Keeping a record of financial transactions isn’t the only use of blockchain technology. There are endless potential future uses for utilizing blockchain technology. For example, Kodak has launched a Blockchain-Enabled Document Management System to keep a public ledger to verify the author of photographs for copyright purposes. Kodak claims that the blockchain platform will lead to 20-40% cost savings through automated workflows and decreased human management of content, information, and documents.

Blockchain is also having a big impact in the financial sector. PNC Financial Services, one of the top ten banks in the United States has been utilizing RippleNet since 2016 to use its blockchain solution for cross border payments and settlements. PNC is a leader in fintech with strategic relationships with RippleNet, investments in artificial intelligence solutions, and has been recognized by Forbes as a top blockchain company. The financial sector is achieving the following benefits utilizing blockchain payments.

– Faster transactions
– Lower fees
– Reduction of fraud
– Use of Smart contracts
– Transparency
A smart contract isn’t unlike its paper predecessor. It helps you exchange property, services, and currency. But unlike that hardly enforceable paper stack paper clipped together on your desk, this contract is a self-executing document enforced by blockchain.  When the first condition is triggered, the funds are released automatically.  Many blockchains support smart contracts.  The Ethereum blockchain serves as a “global computer” that anyone can rent time on to perform complex computations.  Ethereum is a global, open-source platform for decentralized applications.  Use of this computing platform, which is kind of like a decentralized supercomputer, is paid for in Ether, which is a solution to the issue of payment.  This is the fuel that keeps apps and developers on the Ethereum blockchain.

Blockchain technology has been viewed as a way to create secure digital identities in a decentralized way, where the ownership of your online identity isn’t controlled by one entity. Recently, Microsoft announced its support of blockchain-based identity systems, such as the one used by the ID2020 Alliance.

Other proposed uses of blockchain technology include storing medical records securely.  This method could prove beneficial in verifying and protecting patients’ data while making records readily accessible.  A trial by MIT Media Lab and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center shows that blockchain works extremely well in terms of tracking test results, treatments, and prescriptions for inpatients and outpatients over 6 months.

Cyberattacks are considered to be the fastest growing crime in the US, and they are increasing in size and frequency. There are 400 new threats every minute, and up to 70 percent of emerging attacks going undetected by signature-based antivirus.  Blockchain could be utilized in protecting computers from ransomware and other breaches.  This could be in preventing distributed denial of service (DdoS) attacks by verifying traffic, validating attachments, and approving updates.  Antivirus companies are revealing plans to create the first decentralized marketplace for threat intelligence.

There is potential for Blockchain to be utilized in every industry.  This includes food delivery, legal contracts, insurance providers, and even our education system.   Even the United States Postal Service is considering utilizing it for tracking and transaction processing.  These are exciting times for this new technology.  Ill go out on a limb and say the blockchain may invoke a paradigm shift on the future of verification.

Navigating the Wild Wi-Fi West

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Ahh……. traveling through the countryside again.     I’m thrifty, and don’t have unlimited cell service.  I don’t want to use up all my cell phone data out here downloading movies for my kin.    That’s fine, free public wireless Wi-Fi networks are everywhere.    Everyone likes to get online for free.  But what does “free” often mean. There are a lot of security issues with public Wi-Fi.  I like to think of them as the wild-wild west.  This blog will go over the big dangerous amidst many public Wi-Fi spots and how to navigate them.

Malicious Hotspots

Howdy partner, welcome to free Wi-Fi.   So, you’re having dinner at the Texas Steakhouse.  Is the free public Wi-Fi really offered by the diner, or supplied by the guy renting an apartment next door?  Perhaps someone nearby setup a rogue network to entice people to connect and snoop on your web browsing.  It’s a good practice to ask an employee, or the front desk what the name of their Wi-Fi is before just jumping on the first network you find.  A legitimate Wi-Fi network will be less dangerous then a malicious hotspot that is anonymously owned.  You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot, so to speak…

Wi-Fi sniffing

Just because you found the restaurant’s Wi-Fi network doesn’t make it safe either.  One of the tools that hackers are using on public networks is the Pineapple Wi-Fi device.  Originally developed for penetration and security testing, they can be repurposed for Man-in-the-middle attacks.  After determining what websites you access, the device can thoroughly mimic preferred networks.  All your information is then routed through the device. You may think you’re sending information to a HTTPS website, but it’s actually a spoofed website that the device created.  What’s worse is the Pineapple can save user session and cookie information and continue masquerading as your device, long after your gone.  You may need to call the local Sheriff on this network. 

How do you protect yourself?

When you connect be sure you select the Public network option when connecting to public Wi-Fi, keep your computer up to date, and leave your firewall enabled.  These options will protect your computer or device from being breached. 

When you leave a public Wi-Fi, be sure to delete, or “forget” the network in your phone or laptop.  This will keep your device from automatically reconnecting to a similar rogue network at another location.

Cautious browsing

So, we have learned how to protect your device, but what about protecting your online browsing transactions.  Limiting your internet searches to informational websites that don’t pass sensitive credentials is the best practice.  Logging into your online bank, even though an installed App should be avoided.  What about credit card purchases?  Just say no!  Ok, I just want to send an email.  Unless your email is encrypted (most isn’t) even email shouldn’t be checked on public Wi-Fi.  Do your email servers authenticate exclusively with secure HTTPS?  If you’re not 100% sure, don’t chance it.  So, what about Netflix, you like watching movies don’t you?  It depends….   If you can set your online accounts up with different passwords, in the event you are hacked they will only get onto that one site.  Not too much at risk with a compromised Netflix account if your passwords are all unique.  Plus, I get an email when another device logs on my account, so you know you can cut them off at the pass!

VPN – Circle the Wagons

What if you really need to get some work done, cellular service is not available and public Wi-Fi is your only option?  Well that’s when you need to invest in a VPN service.  A virtual private network (VPN) is a technology that allows you to create a secure connection over a less-secure network between your computer and the internet. This is beneficial because it guarantees an appropriate level of security and privacy to the connected systems. This is extremely useful when your Wi-Fi infrastructure may not support it.  It’s like sitting inside a protective circled wagon.

If your company can setup a VPN for you that would be the best option.  The next best would be a paid VPN service that’s based in the United States.  Most of these run under $10 per month.  Though there are many good ones outside of the States.    The following VPN Services have been highly rated by CNET for 2019. 

Norton Secure VPN
Private Internet Access VPN

So, chock up and stay away from those free VPN services.  Because as we just learned from this blog, nothing in life is “free”.  Now head ’em up, and move ’em out

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Spectrum Financial, Inc 2021