Wednesday, November 29, 2017 / Perth Australia / By Niekie Jooste
In this edition of "The WelderDestiny Compass":
I don't know about you, but I get scam e-mails and scam telephone calls on a regular basis. Not a day goes by without at least one, and some days I can be the target of multiple scamming attempts. Anything from calls claiming to be from the tax authorities, to some kind soul that randomly chose me to receive a multi million dollar payment. Who knew there were so many rich people that wanted to give their money away.
Most of the time it is very easy to see a scam a mile off. Besides the "too good to be true" scams where complete strangers want to give you money, the most obvious "give away" for a scam e-mail or telephone call is that the person does not know nearly enough details about you, especially if they are claiming to be from some authority such as the tax office.
Well, maybe the next time I get a scam call, it will not be so easy to know, because the chances are good that a great deal of my personal information is now being sold and traded on the dark web for a tidy sum.
Uber, the ride hailing service, has recently issued a press release that their system had been hacked, and that the hackers had gained access to the personal information of around 57 million of their customers and drivers. I have used the Uber platform in the past. - Lucky me!
Now Uber is not the only large company to have compromised the personal information of their clients. Companies such as LinkedIn, Target, JPMorgan, Home Depot, Sony, Hilton Hotels etc. have been hacked and the personal details of millions of clients and users have been compromised. Today we look at possible solutions to this problem in an increasingly connected world.
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Now let's get stuck into this week’s topics...
As mentioned previously, most of the time it is easy to detect a scam e-mail or call. Mostly due to the lack of information that the parties have about you. It is for this reason that the most valuable currency to scammers is personal data.
If a scammer knows not only your e-mail address, but also your mobile number and your date of birth or driving license number, then there is a whole lot of credence in their words. You may be sorely tempted to click on that link supplied to update your bank account login details, or to pay the unexpectedly outstanding money to the tax authorities.
It is for this reason that hackers are constantly looking for large pools of personal details. The hackers then sell the bulk details to the scammers for a tidy sum.
While we tend to trust large organisations such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Banks and Government departments with our personal details, every time we give out that information, it is placed in a database somewhere, which can potentially be hacked some time in the future.
The more databases we feed our information to, and the richer those databases are, the greater the risk to ourselves.
Unfortunately we do not really have much of a choice in the matter. If we want to enjoy the benefits of the different applications and platforms, then we just have to run the risk and hope for the best. Unfortunately, history shows that hope and trust is not a very sound strategy.
The problem with most databases out there is that if you can get hold of the necessary passwords, then you have a single point of entry to all the information in the database.
Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) has the potential to help us solve this problem. For those who are not aware, blockchain, which is what Bitcoin runs on, is a form of DLT.
If an application runs on a DLT platform, then the information is not stored in a database that has a single point of entry such as would be the case with a typical Oracle or Microsoft database. This means that hackers will have to spend a whole lot of time and energy to hack individual records. Instead of delivering 57 million people's details, a couple of days worth of hacking effort may only deliver a single person's details. Just not that lucrative!
While we are in the early days of DLT applications, there are already companies out there that do in fact have such systems. If a new social media platform gets established with similar functionality as Facebook, but that runs on a DLT platform, I suspect that Facebook may have some competition. For this reason, I think it is only a matter of time before Facebook itself will offer such a DLT platform. Either that, or they will in all probability be toast.
I think that companies such as Facebook have the resources to see the train coming down the track, and make sure they are not run over.
Now we often hear in the media how Bitcoin and other crypto currencies are just used by drug smugglers, thieves, scammers, tax evaders and money launderers. It is clear that the picture that is being created is that law abiding citizens should not get involved in these types of currencies.
It is important to note that the DLT can be operated totally independently of the crypto currencies. It is also important to note that a DLT platform that uses a crypto currency for its transactions, starts to become autonomous and able to operate in a "trustless" network.
The moment a government issued currency is the fundamental currency used in the DTL platform, then a big component of the efficiency of the system is lost. Suddenly the "trusted middleman", such as a bank, is needed.
In other words, to get the most benefit from the DLT platforms, they need to use some kind of crypto currency as the driver to reward all the participants in the system. Only then will the DLT system reach its full potential.
In short, DLT systems without crypto currencies are doomed. They will just turn into a system operated by "insiders" that destroy the whole trustless nature of DLT.
This means that if we want to get the anti-hacker protection offered by the distributed ledger technology, we also need the crypto currencies themselves.
The debate now starts sounding like the gun debate in the USA. On one hand people believe that crypto currencies are used for illegal purposes and should be banned. On the other hand, by banning crypto currencies, they will be driven underground so that law abiding citizens no longer have access to the ability to defend themselves against the hackers.
We need a ringside seat for this fight, because it is going to be a doozy!
Yours in welding
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What can be done to reduce or discourage the plague of mega-hacks that we are seeing? Do you agree that crypto currencies and distributed ledger technology can play a role in alleviating this problem? Please share your stories, opinions and insights regarding today's topic.