The SmartLedger team has been on a media blitz to kick off 2023, having already made several podcast appearances to showcase their new products and talk about the success of Sentinel Node. This week they appeared on the Food Institute podcast to discuss how blockchain can be leveraged for cybersecurity.

Introducing the podcast guests

Bryan Daugherty introduces himself as the co-founder of SmartLedger and the public policy director of the Bitcoin Association.

Gregory Ward is Director of Development at SmartLedger and co-founder of CertiHash.

Patryk Walaszczyk is a blockchain solutions expert and business analyst at IBM.

How are cybersecurity threats a growing threat to the food industry and businesses in general?

Host Chris Campbell asks that question right off the bat. Daugherty responds that it’s hard to think of any more critical industry than agriculture. The food industry is complex and intertwined, and it will increasingly see the application of smart devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), and automated farming techniques. Any disruption can have far-reaching effects across the industry, impacting the lives and livelihoods of real people, he says.

Moreover, the food industry is fragile and dominated by a handful of conglomerates. Shutting down any of them via a cyberattack would have devastating consequences and would be a national concern for any country. Daugherty explains that there is no shortage of groups trying to cause disruption, from hacktivists to cybergangs and even nation states.

What about the costs? What should companies pay in the event of a data breach?

Daugherty explains that JBS Foods was the victim of a ransomware attack, potentially originating in Russia, which halted operations at 13 meat plants, causing havoc. Farms and restaurants were hit and meat prices soared. In the end, JBS had to pay the extortionists $11 million in BTC. This cost is significant, but it doesn’t even include repairing the company’s reputation, government fines, etc.

Elaborating on the fines, Daugherty points to Equifax, which was fined at least $575 million after a data breach that lost consumer data for millions of people. Needless to say, it’s worth preventing these attacks rather than having to clean them up.

Campbell calls these fines “reactionary” and asks if the regulatory environment will change in the coming years. Daugherty responds that his discussions with policymakers reveal a focus on resilient cybersecurity practices and that they intend to strengthen national cybersecurity. Significant resources are devoted to it, including $11 billion allocated by the Biden administration. Daugherty hopes to see new infrastructure emerge from this investment, which will impact the food industry.

Overall, he expects to see increased pressure to report these violations in a transparent and verifiable manner. Blockchain can help with this, by implementing shared and authorized alerts on events of national interest.

What is the typical time to detect a hack?

Campbell asks Ward about the typical timeline for detecting a hack. According to a report from IBM, it says it takes about 187 days to detect a range and another 75 days to contain it. The SmartLedger team finds this unacceptable, and their tool, Sentinel Node, can significantly reduce this time.

What does the traditional (pre-blockchain) forensic process look like? Walaszczyk explains that the forensic process isn’t much different from Sentinel Node, but it should be much faster and cheaper. Preservation of evidence is essential, and if this is not done correctly, everything else becomes invalid.

Elaborating on the process, Walaszczyk explains that the first step is to identify if a breach actually happened, then we need to learn how it happened and its size, then send the appropriate notifications, and once everything has been confirmed, the incident response plan must be followed. Again, preservation of evidence is crucial.

This entire process can take up to 270 days, and Sentinel Node can significantly reduce that time. How fast could that be? A minute or less, Walaszczyk said. The main objective is to reduce the identification time, speeding up the whole process of identifying violations.

What are other benefits of using blockchain technology for cybersecurity? Walaszczyk explains that the first step to grasping them is to understand what blockchain really is. It is essentially a database with unique characteristics including decentralization and immutability. This means that no one can delete or modify the data that has been written to the blockchain. From the perspective of a tool like Sentinel Node, this means that auditors can be confident that the data they are viewing is legitimate and has not been tampered with by attackers or other third parties.

Learn more about Sentinel Node

Campbell asks Ward to tell us more about Sentinel Node in particular. Ward explains that it combines real-time network file integrity monitoring and administrator accountability with scalable blockchain technology. Without the BSV blockchain, this product could not exist.

Sentinel Node is extremely easy to install, says Ward. The administrator can then log in with his private access key and observe the real-time monitoring of the network status (every 10 seconds). If an alert is detected, it is immediately sent to the administrator and other authorized stakeholders. Whoever handles this alert will need to log in with their access key to the corporate blockchain, creating true admin accountability.

Campbell is intrigued by the accountability part.

“Accountability and data integrity are paramount. That’s why we’re creating these tools,” says Ward.

He goes on to say that attackers almost always try to delete logs and cover their tracks, but Sentinel Node, with its real-time data written to the public blockchain, makes this impossible. It also allows companies and organizations to determine who took what action when the alert was triggered.

Key takeaways from this podcast episode

  • Cyberattacks such as ransomware and network breaches are a growing concern for the global food industry. An attack can have vast implications because it is so fragile and interconnected.
  • These attacks can be extremely costly for the businesses and organizations involved. Costs are further increased when government fines are taken into account.
  • The current average network fault detection time is 187 days. It may take an additional 75 days to contain breaches and attacks.
  • Blockchain-based cybersecurity tools like Sentinel Node can dramatically reduce detection times (to less than a minute). They can also create real accountability, allowing organizations to see exactly how the breach happened and who within the organization handled the alerts, and what actions they took.

Watch: CoinGeek Weekly Livestream with Kurt Wuckert Jr. with SmartLedger

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