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Is Blockchain the Silver Bullet of IoT Security?

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Blockchain has been proposed as a “Trusted Mechanism” for crypto-currency, asset transfer and distributed computing without centralized servers/databases and the needs of  trusted  intermediaries  / third parties. Since IoT devices are typically autonomous, distributed, unsupervised, and physically exposed, therefore it seems logical that Blockchains and IoTs are good matches. 

However, there is always a price to pay in adopting any new technology as an industrial solution and Blockchain is no exception! While the incorporation of Blockchain into IoT solutions introducing both a distributed ledger for managing ownership of digital assets as well as a generator for cryptographic proofed transaction data to ensure IoT data provenance, quality, and security, there are many challenges of deploying Blockchains in IoT security. The challenges include   

“ Proof-of-Work” in Blockchains are computationally expensive with limited efficiency and the requirements of increased storage capacity for ever growing Blockchain ledger, etc.    

Consequently, Blockchain is not a panacea for IoT security and there are business applications of IoT which may not be suitable to adopt Blockchain for security solution. Therefore, “To use or not to use Blockchain for IoT security” is a germane question to ask and an important decision to make for every stake holder who is involved in IoT security.  

In this column, after a brief introduction we first discuss the importance of providing highly scalable data integrity and authentication down to the hardware/chip level for IoT security. Next, we discuss securing IoT with Blockchain and the pros & cons as well as the challenges of deploying  Blockchain in IoT. Third, we discuss the suitability of adopting Blockchain to protect both IoT security and privacy for certain mission critical IoT applications. At end, we conclude that after using Blockchain for IoT, we still need a hardware-assisted Blockchain (e.g., PUF + Blockchain) to provide a robust and sustainable security for both IoT devices and IoT data. 


Per IBM [1], there are three key benefits of using Blockchain for IoT, namely 1) Build trust, 2) Reduce costs, and 3) Accelerate transactions. Technically speaking Blockchain and IoT are good matches because IoT applications are by definition distributed and Blockchain is designed as a basis for applications that involve transactions and interactions to provide useful functions such as: 1). Alternative to central authority and centralized databases, 2). Allowing a group of connected computers to maintain a single distributed, updated and secure ledger through the use of peer-to-peer (device-to-device) interaction, 3). Establishing Trust through immutable, time-stamped records and providing useful device security (e.g., ensuring data provenance, and data non-forgeability)…

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