IBM X-Force Red Launches Blockchain Cybersecurity Service

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IBM, a global leader in technology services spanning hardware, software and cybersecurity, has deployed its considerable cybersecurity SWAT team, X-Force Red, to the growing enterprise blockchain arena. While blockchain as a core technology is resilient by design, wherein the public blockchain underpinning bitcoin transactions has not been hacked at the protocol level since its launch in 2008. Nevertheless, the rapid growth of enterprise blockchain projects will plug this pioneering technology into otherwise vulnerable systems and processes – all prone to human error and the massively interconnected and rapidly evolving cyber risk landscape.

It is extremely important that we can ensure that this technology is sound to encourage mass adoption by the public at large and to show to government and financial institutions that this technology can be trusted. When that happens, when these groups have been satisfied that the technology is sound and that there are real world use cases that will highlight the efficiency, cost reduction and effectiveness of blockchain tech, it is then that we will see government support and financial institutions putting investor money into this space.

Anticipating $10 billion in enterprise blockchain investments by 2021, IBM, whose commercial quantum computing capabilities could theoretically break blockchain, at once aims to make this critical technology more secure while at the same time bridging the nascent cybersecurity standards in the sector. X-Fore Red’s blockchain testing service will conduct veritable stress and penetration tests at all phases of a blockchain design, implementation and ongoing use. With the number of teachable cybersecurity moments in the blockchain and particularly the cryptocurrency arena, such as the eye-watering QuadrigaCX losses of more than $140 million in crypto assets in Canada, IBM’s offering is not only timely, it is essential for this emerging technology and the maturing industry that surrounds it. Chris Thomas, X-Force Red’s blockchain testing lead, observes that the academic premise for blockchain has been around for nearly 30 years, while the technology has been deployed for a decade with a single use case, namely recording bitcoin transactions. The nascent run of enterprise blockchain adoption and other projects will be hindered if cybersecurity and governance standards do not keep pace.

“New technologies often play catch-up with security as they emerge through their early adoption phase.

If we look at mobile applications, cloud computing and even personal computers – all these innovations needed to adopt policies and techniques for security,” said Charles Henderson, Global Head of IBM X-Force Red.

“However, while blockchain is a breakthrough for protecting the integrity of data, that does not mean the technology and connected infrastructure are always protected from attackers, which is why security testing is essential during development and after deployment.”

This exercise of cybersecurity maturity and prudence will only increase end user comfort in blockchain technology and drive further investment in the increasingly competitive enterprise blockchain arena, which now boasts of a number of major providers, including IBM, Microsoft and Oracle, which sits astride the world’s deepest repository of commercial databases all begging to be connected in new high-trust, low-friction ways.

As we have seen with some of the recent attacks and hacks on some of the alt coin projects, it is extremely important that before any major initiatives are rolled out, that the underlying security of these projects are reviewed, and any weaknesses/vulnerabilities are found out. One of the worst things that could happen would be to have a major flaw to cause the loss of funds, exposure of information or other security issue that could come up. While many established companies and technologies have had security flaws exposed, the public and other groups are more forgiving of an established technology or company. A fledgling technology could easily have themselves set back quite a bit. Adoption only comes with comfort.

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