Even if not all of us are blockchain savants, we mostly have a pretty good idea of how they function as a distributed database whose integrity is maintained by an unbroken chain of conputational hashes. For cyryptocurrencies a blockchain ledger stores transaction records, but there is no reason why the same ledger can not contain almost any other form of digital content. [Bruce Schneier] writes on the potential consequences of content that is illegal or censored being written to a blockchain, and about how it might eventually form a fatal weakness for popular cryptocurrencies.
It’s prompted by the news that some botnet operators have been spotted using the Bitcoin ledger to embed command and control messages to hide the address of their control server. There have already been cases of illegal pornography being placed within blockchain ledgers, as well as leaked government data.
[Schneier] uses these two content cases to pose the question as to whether this might prove to be a vulnerability for the whole system. If a government such as China objects to a block containing censored material or a notoriously litigious commercial entity such as Disney objects to a piece of copyrighted content, they could take steps to suppress copies of the blockchain that contain those blocks. Being forced by hostile governments or litigious corporations to in effect remove a block from the chain by returning to the previous block would fork the blockchain, and as multiple forks would inevitably be made in this way it would become a threat to the whole. It’s an interesting possible scenario, and one that should certainly be ready by anyone with an interest in blockchain technologies.
Only a few weeks ago we looked at another threat to blockchain technologies – that they might be legislated out of existence by environmental rules.