Bitcoin is all over the news. Seeing as this cryptocurrency surged 150% in value in a single month, a lot of people are now taking a look at blockchain, the technology that allows cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to exist. While it’s a complicated concept, the basic framework is that blockchain eliminates the need for third-party record keeping through its ability to provide a publicly distributed, immutable ledger that ensures accuracy.
While blockchain is clearly making its mark on the financial industry, this new technology is poised to disrupt the way we do business in nearly every field. Here are five industries that will soon see the effects of blockchain:
Medical records are some of the most personal and sensitive pieces of information about us. Hospitals often lack the data infrastructure to both securely store these records and share them effectively with necessary providers. Startups and established healthcare companies are working to implement blockchain medical record keeping to ensure integrity and trust in the system.
2. Food Safety
With blockchain, transactions are permanently recorded in a ledger that everyone can access. This means near instantaneous tracking of the supply chain of anything recorded in the blockchain. In the event of an E. coli outbreak, food safety personnel can determine the source of the contamination almost immediately and work to get dangerous food off the shelf that much faster. Not only can that save money, it can potentially save lives.
The reason that Bitcoin has had such success lies in the fact that it has removed the intermediary once needed for financial transactions. With blockchain, banks are no longer necessary for verifying that someone has the money they claim to have. Distributed ledgers will soon come to challenge banks as the sole record keepers of the financial world, opening up the door to new financial tools altogether.
4. Real Estate
Real estate is a multi-trillion dollar industry. However, a lot of that money is tied into the paperwork involved in deeds, records, contracts and plats. While in-person interactions have traditionally handled those types of documents, the ability to put things like title transfer into blockchain will reduce costs dramatically and make fraud much more difficult.
Traditionally, contracts passed back and forth between parties for the purpose of making changes, where others then reviewed and made their own changes. With an immutable record, the once time-intensive process of contract creating, signing and even enforcement can be reduced dramatically, saving time and money. Intellectual property, deed management and public records all stand to see changes with blockchain technology, signaling a bout of disruptions on the horizon for the legal industry.
The blockchain is the technology behind Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and other cryptocurrencies. While these are the most well-known uses of the blockchain, its benefits mean it has far-reaching implications for finance and data security beyond the cryptocurrency industry.
The blockchain is a distributed database (a database which is stored on many different devices). This means that recorded transactions are verified by hundreds or even thousands of different actors (also called nodes). The number of nodes makes blockchain far more secure than a simple database stored on just one device: you can’t just change one copy to commit fraud – you have to change thousands.
How does it work?
Blockchain Tracks and Verifies Transactions Using Blocks and Keys
The distributed database holds a list of transactions, which are called blocks. These blocks stack up in a chronologically-linked chain; each one is time-stamped and references the block before it. These blocks exist in a strict order which cannot be changed.
The blocks and the transactions they hold are public, and anyone with a copy of the database can see them. It is impossible to make a change to an old block without the nodes noticing, flagging and rejecting the change.
When a transaction is made, it is verified using two keys: one private, one public. The private key is known only to the account holder and is used as a signature to confirm who the transaction has come from. The public key, which everyone has, can be used to decrypt and authenticate the transaction, but cannot be used to create a transaction; this prevents a user from creating false transactions.
What Are The Advantages and Disadvantages of Blockchain Technology?
Because of the way it works, blockchain has several key benefits:
An Unchangeable Database – The data held on a blockchain cannot be changed. Every transaction, once logged and accepted, is held on the chain and kept there forever. This makes it highly transparent and makes auditing transactions easy.
Reduced Costs – Transactions are verified by the nodes holding the blockchain, which means that traditional middlemen (such as banks) aren’t needed. Banks are investing heavily in the blockchain because if they ignore it, they might find themselves not needed.
Users Are Empowered – The blockchain allows users to have full control over their transactions and data. For example, the blockchain could enable individuals to have control over who accesses their medical records.
As with any system, there are also disadvantages:
Verification Bottlenecks – The cryptographic system used to sign and check transactions is complex, and requires a lot of computing power. This means there is a limit to how fast transactions can be processed.
More Work – When a transaction occurs it must be processed by every single node that holds a copy of the database (which could be thousands). This is a lot of extra computational work compared to a traditional database, where the transaction is processed just once.
What Can Blockchain Be Used For?
Blockchain can be used anywhere where a transparent, unhackable database would be useful, and businesses and governments are testing a wide variety of use cases. There is a high level of hype and excitement, but in this case, it might actually be justified – blockchain really does have the potential to revolutionize many industries.
For example, blockchain could be used to prevent voter fraud by being used as the platform for an unhackable vote-counting system which would both securely check voter’s identities and prevent changes from being made by a third party.
Another use case is as a means of authenticating ownership of a unique item, such as a piece of art. The art piece would be paired with a digital token, which could then be bought or sold. Even if the art piece was physically stolen, the original owner would still hold the ownership digitally. Any attempt at selling it on would fail because anyone would be able to look up the true owner.
Kenneally Technology Services was recently requested to provide their expertise to a national cybersecurity organization and their online publication. Here is an excerpt with a link to the full article if you wish to continue reading:
The “little guy mentality” can no longer be relied upon to protect and safeguard your systems in today’s environment.
Much attention has been paid to major data breaches that have affected large corporations, United States government agencies, not-for-profits and political organizations. This attention has resulted in the allocation of significant resources, both monetary and intellectual, to shore up business and government defenses against different types of cyber threats. In fact, an entire educational industry has emerged as high schools and universities now offer courses and majors for a new generation of cyber-warriors.
That is all well, good and necessary given cyber’s national security and financial implications, but it fails to address the core of the American economy. Tens of thousands of small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) do not have an existing or adequate cybersecurity budget. Perhaps worse, these organizations often feel that due to the small size of their business they will not be the targets of a cyber-attack?
This perception is simply not correct. Last summer, the FBI reported that as of late 2013 (the latest data available), more than 7,000 U.S. companies, of all sizes, were victims of phishing scams, with losses exceeding $740 million. Symantec Corporation has observed a steady increase in attacks targeting businesses with less than 250 employees, with 43 percent of all attacks targeted at small businesses in 2015, proving that companies of all sizes are targeted…
There are many important reasons to go to the trouble of recycling your retired IT equipment rather than just tossing it into the dumpster when no longer needed.
According to ComputerWeekly.com, an average PC contains plastic (23%), ferrous metals (32%), non-ferrous metals (18%), electronic boards (12%), and glass (15%). A single computer can contain up to 2kg of lead, and the complex mixture of materials make PCs very difficult to recycle for the owner of the equipment themselves.
It is possible to recycle many parts of an IT system, particularly monitors, PCs and servers. Computer peripherals, such as printers and scanners, can also be recycled, as well as landline and mobile phones. Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent of electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year. For every million cell phones we recycle, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.
If you are like most business owners, you have accumulated a large amount of old technology equipment. Most local recycling sites located within the State of Maryland do not allow bulk disposal of retired IT equipment, but instead limit the drop-off to a single item per vehicle. If yours is a large organization, this could mean several trips just to dispose of a small portion of your old equipment.
Having a professional recycling firm handle these duties for you is much more affordable than you may think. The convenience of their personnel coming to your site and picking up the equipment for you is well worth the cost. A professional IT recycling firm should provide you with a detailed list of all equipment disposed of, including make, model and serial numbers. They should also provide you with certificates as proof that all hard drives and magnetic media storage devices have been properly destroyed.
The single most important reason you should retain a professional recycling firm to handle your retired technology is security. Mechanical hard drives commonly found in servers and desktops computers, solid state drives found in laptops, and flash drive technology used in phones and memory sticks can house long-forgotten yet sensitive data in documents, emails, and even videos and pictures.
When you use the file deletion utility of your computer or mobile device’s operating system, it does not actually delete the data. Instead, it marks that location on your system’s storage device as being available to overwrite the space with new data. A lot of readily available data rescue software can very easily retrieve “deleted” data from storage devices that may even be damaged.
If you are in an industry that has regulations for securing patient health information, credit card information and any personal data (and that covers nearly every type of business), you should have not only a strategy in place, but also an IT policy that states how data storage devices and IT equipment are destroyed. A few dollars now can save you thousands later.
For more information, please feel free to reach Dave Thomas, Director of Technology Services, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 443.829.9897.
Maryland MGMA (Maryland Medical Group Management Association) is the local resource for medical practice management education and information.
Kenneally Technology Services was a sponsor of the Maryland MGMA State Conference on Friday, September 30th. We have worked with lots of medical practices on IT Security Assessment projects as well as providing managed network services for many medical groups.
Kenneally Technology sponsored the TapSnap photo booth at this event which benefitted the Casey Cares Foundation and it provided a bit of fun relief from the informative conference sessions and meetings.