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The technological progress in the area of blockchain is being cheered by its fans the world over. People from all domains are rushing to find applications to be part of the gold rush. And just when it seems that blockchain may have already reached everywhere it can; a news flash announces yet another cool blockchain solution implementation.
Implementing blockchain solutions to solve trust issues in the world of the internet, and particularly in cases where an SSL certificate has, for long being used has been the preferred toolkit to get the job done. Now, this debate keeps coming up since the last few years.
Let us take a deeper dive into different aspects of these technologies to see how they relate and figure out if blockchain can replace SSL.
Significance of SSL
When it comes to transacting over the scary world of the internet, trust is typically the overarching concern that needs to be addressed to build a harmonious relationship between the companies and their customers.
If you are in any online business, you will understand the importance of creating a secure environment to make your potential customers comfortable enough to do business on your website. This is particularly true if you are going to ask the customers to share any sensitive information or make online payments.
SSL certificates had been in use long before cryptocurrencies made blockchain so famous. SSL certificates enable a visual cue on web browsers (mostly in the form of a green padlock in the address bar) that assures the users that the information exchanged between them.
The web server is being encrypted, so no one else can make sense of it even if they were to intercept the communication medium somehow and intercept and grab the data being transmitted. Such an attack where the hacker inserts themselves between the user’s web browser and the webserver is called a MITM (Man in the middle) attack.
Why is SSL under fire?
Now if SSL were perfect and had no history of vulnerabilities, the debate of blockchain replacing it would probably not be happening. However, any technology takes time to stabilize and perfect – SSL has had its fair share of bad press with big entities like Google and National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies finding flaws in the system. Now, since its inception in 1995, SSL has come a long way and gone through multiple significant revisions and has now established itself as the core of online security.
In 2014, the entire cybersecurity world was severely shaken – this is after SSL had already reached version 3.0 and had been rebranded as TLS (transport layer security), which is the one used now. The newly discovered “Heartbeat” vulnerability had covered all around the globe scrambling to get their SSL certificates reissued.
Headlines were blaming the SSL protocol for the mess when it was a case of an error in OpenSSL’s cryptographic library. Since OpenSSL is in use by more than 70% of the websites out there, it ended up being a big deal, and SSL was wrongly publicized as being vulnerable (when it was an OpenSSL implementation problem).
Another concern with SSL certificates is that centralized authorities issue them. The Certificate Authorities (CAs) are responsible for guaranteeing that the SSL certificate issued to an organization is done only after meticulous verification to establish the identity of the certificate owner. SSL certificate types include a single domain, Code Signing certificate, multi-domain SSL certificate, etc. that suit different requirements.
The problem with these authorities is that they carry a higher risk of being compromised – for instance, an SSL certificate issued to the wrong entity may result in cheating on other users.
The users, who depend on the SSL certificate to establish trust, will be deceived. For instance, a user conducting a transaction on an online payment system may end up transferring his/her sensitive information to a server set up by an imposter.
Why is blockchain being touted as an SSL replacement?
Does blockchain have a clean record? Well, not really. Blockchain has found itself in the middle of many alarming insecurities that have shaken the cryptocurrency world from time to time. However, the move towards blockchain has been getting a push, primarily driven by FinTech experts looking to replace the world’s centralized currencies, controlled by the governments and centralized banks, with the more independent and decentralized cryptocurrencies.
However, it is essential to note that blockchain technology has more security features compared to SSL certificates and most vulnerabilities publicized in the area that mostly resulted from problems in the cryptocurrency space rather than blockchain security. When blockchain is deployed in the world of digital security, it provides reliable authentication of the involved entities, without the need for passwords to maintain the underlying infrastructure.
Also, SSL uses end-to-end encryption but fails to protect the metadata, which may lead to leaks of sensitive data. Blockchain, on the other hand, does a much better job at preserving the metadata used in communication, since the information is scattered across the distributed ledger.
This blocks data leaks and prevents cyber-espionage. Also, blockchain allows the entities to create their unique cryptographic keys, which are more effective in verifying the information and ensuring secure communication, using a consensus-based approach.
The dominant feature behind the blockchain technology is anonymity, which makes it impossible to carry out the role of a CA, who is responsible for verifying the legitimacy of the certificate’s owner. Everyone involved in the process must trust the decision-maker – if not, the overall system loses the faith of the stakeholders. This is something that blockchain technology may never be able to achieve.
However, opportunities do exist for integrating blockchain and SSL. Several SSL certificates based on blockchain have been launched (example: REMME and DNSChain) that use consensus between various parties to achieve verification. These integrated certificates provide better authentication by eliminating the human factor (the CAs).
The decentralized and distributed nature of the blockchain technology backed SSL certificates accurately authenticates digital transaction integrity, which makes it impossible for hackers to launch any cyberattacks.
As of now, blockchain is missing the human touch that is critical to verify the legitimacy of the involved parties. Though, it does have the potential to fix the vulnerabilities associated with SSL certificates and solidify online security systems.
However, blockchain still needs to establish stability in technology to uphold digital security and decentralized trust. It is too soon to throw the CAs out and replace the decision-maker role with the decentralized blockchain technology. The jury on this is still out, but it is safe to conclude that SSL is not going away anytime soon.
Let me know what you think about the future of SSL certificates and Blockchain? If you liked this article, read other insightful information and opinions below:
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