IBM offers advice on how to secure blockchain in the cloud

The company wants to drive broad blockchain adoption, but also bring users to its cloud services

Cloud providers hosting blockchain secure transactions technology should take additional steps to protect the records, IBM says.

IBM's new framework for securely operating blockchain networks, released Friday, recommends that network operators make it easy to audit their operating environments and use optimized accelerators for hashing -- the generation of numbers from strings of text -- and the creation of digital signatures to pump up CPU performance. 

Along with the security guidelines, IBM announced new cloud-based blockchain services designed to meet existing regulatory and security requirements. The company has worked with security experts to create cloud services for "tamper-resistant" blockchain networks, it said.

The new cloud services are "an iron-clad way to achieve that level of security," said Holli Haswell, an IBM spokeswoman. "Not all clouds can necessarily attain that level of security and compliance today."

While blockchain, traditionally used for bitcoin and other financial transactions, is already focused on security, most businesses will need to use blockchain in permission-based networks shared on the cloud, Haswell said by email.

"You don’t want bad actors like a VM (virtual machine) manager in the host provider to see when transactions are coming in or trying to perform interrogations that could give them sensitive information," she added.

Network operators should also protect their blockchain operating environments from access by host administrators to prevent tampering, recommended IBM, which has embraced blockchain technology in recent months.

Haswell described the IBM framework as "a set of standards or recommendations that we believe should be adhered to or at least considered when putting blockchain applications in the cloud once they move from experiments to production environments."

IBM in February announced it was offering a cloud-based service to allow developers to set up blockchain networks and test and deploy related apps.

Blockchains are distributed records of events, each block in the record containing a computational "hash" (or numeric representation) of itself and of the previous block, like links in a chain. Blockchains make it difficult to modify or fake past transactions because such a change would require the modifications to be made on all subsequent blocks.

IBM is pitching its own secure blockchain services at financial services companies, government agencies, and healthcare firms, the company said. But other cloud providers can adopt the company's new blockchain security framework, Haswell noted.

The company hopes the security guidelines will help drive adoption of blockchain, she said. The guidelines will help providers scale to thousands of users securely, she added.

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