Will Blockchains Include Insecurity by Design?

Posted by Andy_Updegrove on May 11, 2018 4:49 PM EDT
ConsortiumInfo.org Standards Blog; By Andy Updegrove
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The twenty-five countries participating in a global standards effort to create security standards for the blockchain were surprised to find some unusual national representatives from Russia involved: employees of the FSB, the state security service that took over from the KGB.

Ask any journalist to pick an adjective to use in connection with standards development and the answer will invariably be "boring." But according to a recent New York Times article (yes, it also used that word - as well as "wonky"), the process of creating standards just became a whole lot more interesting - at least when it comes to the blockchain. The reason? A standards working group may have been infiltrated by state actors bent on embedding security flaws into the very standards being created for the purpose of preventing attacks.

And why not? The power of a successful standard comes from the fact that vendors have to adopt it in order to sell a given product or service, such as a WiFi router or a USB device. Indeed, laptops and smart phones include hundreds of standards, each of which is essential to a given function or service. As I noted last week, the blockchain will need standards, too, in order for it to take hold in multiple areas. Some of those standards will be intended to make the blockchain more secure.

With the blockchain promising to become a core infrastructural component of a bewildering and expanding number of use cases, what could be a bigger coup for a national intelligence service than to engineer the inclusion of a backdoor in all that technology that only it could access?

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