Solving Tech Problems with More Tech

It really does make sense

People are scrambling to protect themselves online.

After more than a decade of unbridled participation in the online services that we all love so much, there is a collective reckoning taking place. Spurred on by unbelievable data breaches and unconscionable privacy violations, people are ready to take action, but what that action should be is much less understood.

Many people react viscerally. They are angry about these events, so they start movements like the #DeleteFacebook campaign to pressure the platform to make drastic changes before people leave forever. Meanwhile, others start petitions, pressure lawmakers, and generally just rage about the problems of data security on the same platforms that are so unscrupulously prioritizing their grievances.

More practical and tangible solutions are available. As we recognize and reckon with the scope of the problem, we can appreciate the way out of this mess.

The Short Road to Big Compromise

Even for an industry with a long history of compromise, the past several years have been particularly harrowing.

In many ways, the string of events began with Target, a prominent U.S. retailer, which was victimized by a network hack that exposed the credit card information of 40 million customers. As Reuters reported last year, Target settled in court and paid more than $18 million to compensate customers.

Of course, Target’s problem looks relatively tame compared to Yahoo’s hack that CNN described as “An epic and historic data breach.” In total, every Yahoo account that existed at the time of the breach was compromised. It totaled more than 3 billion accounts, and it stands as one of the most massive data breaches ever.

This isn’t just a retail problem.

Last year, credit monitoring firm, Equifax, endured a breach that affected more than 145 million people. The hackers stole users’ names, addresses, dates of birth, and social security numbers. It was an incredibly invasive hack that was both intensely personal and financially damaging.

Even the NSA wasn’t immune. As CNN reports, “In April, an anonymous group called the Shadow Brokers leaked a suite of hacking tools widely believed to belong to the National Security Agency.”

These events are so prolific that they fail to adequately capture our attention. Just when we finish learning about one event, another one is already making headlines. As a result, personal data theft — whether financial or otherwise — has become a question of when it will happen, not if it is possible.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Just this month, Dixons Carphone, a London-based maker of electronic accessories, exposed the credit card information for nearly 6 million customers. However, most of these credit cards were protected by “chip and pin protection,” that prevented all but 105,000 cards from actually leaking

To be sure, chip and pin protection isn’t the ultimate solution to all of our technological shortcomings, but the episode is illustrative of the fact that better technology can make a difference in the battle for personal privacy.

A Better Way Through Better Technology

It may seem antithetical or even blindly optimistic to assume that more technology is the answer to technology’s shortcomings. However, in a very practical way, it is.

The blockchain, which was first introduced nearly a decade ago, was popularized for its accounting role for popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. However, as a network concept, it’s capable of so much more.

In their 2018 Joint Economic Report, a bipartisan group of U.S. Congressman reported, “So far, the technology has proved largely resistant to hacking.” Although the technology was first implemented to secure cryptocurrencies, the report goes on to note, “Yet blockchain has many more potential applications, such as portable medical records and securing the critical financial and energy infrastructure that the Report identified.”

Indeed, the blockchain has as many use case as our creativity can muster, and it’s the solution to the future of digital security.

When it comes to protecting user data, here is what the blockchain has to offer.

#1 Tokenized Identity

A digital token serves as a stand-in for a person’s actual information. It’s the digital equivalent of a note from your mom promising that you are who you say you are. These digital tokens are stored on the blockchain, and they can serve as a person’s digital identity across a variety of different services.

What’s more, platforms can develop sophisticated password processes to further secure user information. For example, biometric identity such as fingerprints and facial recognition are already prominent methods for securing access to devices, and they can provide a more secure methodology for protecting users’ information.

#2 Decentralized Network

Most network hackers don’t employ particularly sophisticated procedures for gaining access to a company’s system. One of the most common methods, best known as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, involves overwhelming a network with traffic to expose vulnerabilities in its infrastructure.

Deloitte, a research and consulting firm with extensive experience with blockchain technology, believes that “recent attacks are increasing in severity, complexity, and frequency and have therefore become a mainstream concern for businesses and private customers alike.”

The blockchain’s decentralized network thwarts DDoS attacks by making it impossible to overwhelm the server because the information is spread out among hundreds of computers that are located around the world.

#3 Trusted Transactions

The blockchain became famous for its ability to facilitate millions of digital transactions a day without error or fraud. With more people shopping online than in stores, protecting the sensitive personal and financial information that accompanies those purchases is a critical next step for user security. Using digital currencies, the blockchain can enable trusted digital transactions that embrace many of the ideals that companies claim to foster.

The Natural Next Step

Despite widespread investment and growing implementation, the blockchain remains an underutilized technology. Many experts see it as the next iteration of the internet, which means that it isn’t going away any time soon. Therefore, the companies that be best prepared to embrace and implement this technology will be at the forefront of a compelling frontier of usability and security. For consumers, they have the opportunity to vote with their dollars. By using and supporting platforms that are implementing blockchain technology to protect their personal data, they can hasten its adoption.

Better technology can improve the digital landscape, and the blockchain with all its accompanying features is making a strong case to be the practical, tangible solution.

About The Author

Alastair Johnson is the founder & CEO of Nuggets,

Nuggets is an e-commerce payments and ID platform. It stores your personal and payment data securely in the blockchain, so you never have to share it with anyone — not even Nuggets.

Solving Tech Problems with More Tech was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.