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Solving Supply Chain and Security Problems with Blockchain Technology

blockchain technology

Solving Supply Chain and Security Problems with Blockchain Technology

In the last few years, blockchain has become a buzzword in the tech industry. The concept entered the public consciousness through Bitcoin, which uses a specific blockchain as a core component of its consensus algorithm. Back in 2017-2018, many experts were proclaiming “blockchain, not Bitcoin,” while today, Bitcoin’s latest meteoric rise and ensuing crash has flipped that narrative on its head. But while blockchain technology is often associated with cryptocurrencies, its application is powering the fourth industrial revolution and mainstreaming applications. In cybersecurity, blockchain technology can help improve security and resiliency, at a cost.

To understand blockchain-based cybersecurity, one must first understand some basic principles of how a blockchain works. A blockchain is one form of distributed ledger technology (DLT), meaning that it is used in distributed systems. Distributed systems offer greater resiliency than centralized systems since a decentralized network has no single point of failure, but that resiliency comes at a cost. Without a single source of truth for the network, reaching consensus can be difficult. A blockchain typically serves as part of that consensus mechanism—establishing a reliable record for the system to use.

Implementations vary between different blockchains, but in general, a blockchain takes some chunk of data and connects it cryptographically to the previous chunk of data, forming a chain of data blocks—a blockchain. That data can itself be encrypted using public-private key pairs so that only authorized users (or owners) can access the records.

Typically, each block of data includes a header, which summarizes the contents of the block. That header includes a cryptographic hash of the previous block’s header, and that hash forms the link between each block. Because each block builds on and explicitly references the contents of the previous block, a properly implemented blockchain is extraordinarily difficult to alter. In order to change a block’s data, every block after that block must also be edited to build on the new hash of the altered block. Consequently, older blocks are much harder to change than newer blocks.

The immutability and decentralization of a blockchain make it well-suited to certain applications. For example, financial institutions can benefit from unambiguous, cryptographically provable ownership records. Bank of America recently announced that it joined the Paxos network to speed up settlement times for stock trades, while JPMorgan has settled billions of dollars of transactions on a private version of Ethereum. From healthcare records to private genetic data, blockchain technology is also revolutionizing the medical industry. Legally, blockchain implementations could help businesses by providing a reliable, auditable data record.

As we digest the takeaways from the late spring 2021 crypto-crash, gas fees required to process transactions over Ethereum blockchain networks and environmental costs associated with Bitcoin mining need to be reexamined. But what are gas or transaction fees? While “gas fees” refers to the computing power required to securely execute a transaction on the Ethereum blockchain, they can be analogized to the transaction fees to process any crypto-currency transaction. On the Bitcoin blockchain, fees are required to pay the network’s miners to accept and verify a transaction.

While these gas fees and mining fees are an essential part of the security behind the scenes, they have become substantial deterrents to the growth of the digital asset marketplace. Startups that can create cost-savings in gas or mining fees to process transactions will be well-positioned to lead the next generation of blockchain security solutions.

If your company is considering implementing blockchain technology, consider carefully what information needs to be stored. My advice is to evaluate whether you need to use a blockchain. It is a powerful and useful technology, but it is not the right tool for every job, regardless of how popular it is. Unlike a traditional database, data stored on a blockchain effectively cannot be altered, so you need to make sure that whatever records you include compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. A mistake here could be extraordinarily difficult to fix. In some industries, the benefits will be well worth the risks. In other industries, the transaction costs need to first come down.

Some solutions to consider for industries where blockchain makes sense today:

-Bide your time. Wait it out. The market is evolving rapidly, decentralized and dynamic. With so many costs with no consolidation, new competitors are entering the market every day, and chances are that fees will reduce as a percentage of the transaction over time.

-You could also look for new blockchains or wrappers that “wrap around” existing blockchains to support more transactions, relieving congestion and offering lower fees.

-Partnering with value-priced wallets offering scaling technologies enabling lower fees is also an avenue to explore.

In the end, blockchain cybersecurity simply leverages the immutability and decentralization of a blockchain to make tampering with data more difficult while reducing centralized points of failure and giving users more control over their data. Ignore the hype, and evaluate whether this technology is right for your use case. Periodically reevaluate. This is a dynamic technology, and so is the market.

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Louis Lehot is an emerging growth company, venture capital, and M&A lawyer at Foley & Lardner in Silicon Valley.  Louis spends his time providing entrepreneurs, innovative companies, and investors with practical and commercial legal strategies and solutions at all stages of growth, from the garage to global.

cybersecurity

3 Biggest Threats to a Bank’s Cybersecurity

Our world is changing. It is undergoing rapid and massive digitization. It would be safe to claim that we have the global pandemic to blame for that. However, we believe that we would have gotten there anyway given the trajectory of our current technological advancements.

Education, various business processes一almost everything can already be done online these days. The world has passed a point of no return and will never go back to what it was pre-pandemic. What has been made digital will remain digital. While this new normal does offer a lot of conveniences, it also presented a new set of challenges, particularly in cybersecurity. And of all the industries that have gone online, it is probably the world of banking that we are most concerned for. What are the financial problems that these changes will pose?

In this article, we are going to talk about the biggest threats to cybersecurity in the banking sector. Let’s start with the most basic: unencrypted data.

Unencrypted Data

Data encryption is the process of converting data from a readable format into a decoded one. Various institutions usually have their own specific codes. In this way, no one would be able to easily read their data outside the firm, should their data fall into the wrong hands.

Think of data encryption as both the vanguard and the rear of cybersecurity. An effective encryption process can deter people with malicious intent. And if they ever get their hands on the said data, they would still have to try to decrypt it anyway before it can be of any use to them. These added security measures can be truly valuable for any financial institution.

Malware

The next imminent threat is malware. While we have no doubt that most financial institutions work with competent cybersecurity agencies in order to protect their devices from being hacked, it is also true that this might not include their staff.

A breach into a system is still possible through a compromised employee phone. All he needs to do is to connect to the office’s computer network and a hacker can already begin accessing compromising information.

The same thing can happen when you’re collaborating with a third-party service. We understand how convenient it is to employ a third-party service. It can potentially save time, money, and other resources.

However, it can also expose your financial institution to certain risks if your partner doesn’t have effective cybersecurity measures in place.

The best solution to prevent potential attacks in this manner remains to be adequate employee training. Make your staff aware of the very real (and billion-dollar) repercussions of a security breach.

It is also possible to limit the access of your employees. Just let them access the minimum data that they need in order to perform their tasks. This is for their own protection as well.

Finally, running comprehensive background checks and being particularly careful with the people you hire will also help. Just make sure that your checks remain compliant to prevent any issues.

As for business partners, one should never be afraid to ask about potential partners’ cybersecurity efforts.

Data Manipulation

Another big concern is data manipulation. There are three ways in how your data can be manipulated. First, it can be stolen, copied, and distributed elsewhere, much like how hackers are able to create realistic company pages for phishing. This is called spoofing.

Data can also be deleted. This is particularly true for bigger financial institutions with competing firms. An attacker might not really have the intention to steal information but to mess up the system by deleting crucial bits of data.

Can you imagine the panic that will ensue if a financial institution suddenly lost all its client information?

Finally, data can be edited without the owner’s knowledge. Despite the common belief that data-stealing is the worst cybersecurity attack that can happen, we still believe data alteration worse. That’s because this attack is a bit difficult to detect right away.

It’s easy for bigger companies to detect if their data has been stolen and being used with malicious intent. Data deletion is a complete giveaway. You will learn that an attack has happened right after it did. There’s even a chance of stopping it halfway if you’re lucky to catch it early enough.

What makes data alteration particularly detrimental is the fact that it can’t easily be detected. A firm can go on for months without even knowing that an attack has happened. After all, the manipulated data may look unaltered on the surface, but the truth is, hundreds (if not thousands) of micro edits have already been made. If the hacker succeeds, the financial institution may be held liable to pay millions of dollars in damages.

How Imminent Is the Threat?

The cybersecurity threats that we have mentioned above are just some of the most common ones that financial institutions globally are faced with every day. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are definitely other forms of cyberattacks out there, and even more, being developed by the minute.

According to Mark Whelan, a banking expert from the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, cyberattacks are more prominent and brazen than ever before. It has even reached the point that they are receiving up to 10 million attacks in a month.

For him, this is the biggest threat that financial institutions are currently facing, and experts predict that it’s only going to get worse.

Final Thoughts

Indeed, it is a brave new world that we’re living in. The risks and threats that we are facing right now are so stark in contrast to what we have experienced in the past. Gone are the days of bank heists with guns blazing. Instead, the bigger threat is probably wearing a sweatshirt right now in a random room somewhere across the globe. The fact that you wouldn’t have to take such a risk on your life makes the prospect even more appealing.

This has led financial institutions to prioritize cybersecurity efforts and training. Fortunately, with adequate risk assessment and planning, we are confident that you will be able to prevent severe cyberattacks from happening.

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Jim Hughes is a content marketer who has significant experience covering technology, finance, economics, and business topics. At the moment, he is the Director of Content at OpenCashAdvance.com.

forex

How to Analyze Data for More Profitable Forex Trading

Successful forex trading is the art of being able to predict when currencies are going to shift in value in relation to each other, and what direction that shift is going to be in. The good news is that those fundamentals are relatively simple; is the dollar going to weaken against the yen? Will the pound pick up against the euro? Another piece of good news is that there are huge swathes of data available to the average retail trader to enable them to make these decisions. Of course, you may opt to rely on your instincts and make decisions as the situation in the various currency exchanges unfolds before you.

While there is a place for this kind of fast thinking and quick decision making in forex trading, it will only ever form the basis of a stable and successful long term strategy – one which delivers consistent levels of profit – if the quick decisions are built upon the foundations of a clear and thought through long term plan. And this kind of planning is only possible if you know exactly what kind of data to be on the lookout for, and about the tools which are available aid in your analysis. 

The complexities of big data in the age of seamless digital communication are such that it would be impossible to summarise every possible metric or analytical approach accessible to the retail trader in the space available. What is possible, however, is an overview of the main planks of data analysis a trader needs to bear in mind, and a look at a few of the types of tool which can make that analysis easier and more accurate.             

Forex Fundamentals 

When a trader buys and sells shares the analysis required is focused, in the main, on the good health of otherwise of the company in question, and whether the various indicators predict that the shares are likely to rise or fall in value. Wider market conditions have an impact as well, of course, but these conditions would be the same for any stock being traded, which places the emphasis firmly on the choice of stock.

Where forex trading is concerned, however, the fundamental issue is always going to be the relative strength and weakness of a pair of currencies. Looking ahead in an effort to take advantage of shifts in value means analysing macro-economic figures such as interest rates, unemployment rates and GDP (gross domestic product). Many of these figures are firmly fixed in the economic news cycle, meaning it’s simple for a trader to see in advance when a country or bloc such as the EU is likely to announce figures which might impact on currency fluctuations (predicting what this impact will be is a more complex matter altogether, of course).

Requiring more vigilance to spot, on the other hand, are the sudden shifts which might be triggered by an event such as a comment in a ministerial press conference which is assumed to increase the chances of a no-deal Brexit and so sends the value of the pound dropping. Fundamental analysis based on one-off events of this kind requires a close attention to detail, up to the minute (or even second) access to newsfeeds and the willingness to take up positions instantly.        

Technical

Technical analysis is based not on real world events beyond the confines of the currency exchanges, but on in-depth analysis of the way in which the price of currencies has moved in the past. By focusing on charts of price movements and analysing them with a variety of tools – both manual and automatic – a trader can identify patterns which have repeated in the past and can be expected to repeat again in the future. Past performance is no guarantee of future success, of course (some clichés become clichés because they happen to be true), but the relative stability of the major currencies, over the long term, means that patterns of movement can become relatively predictable. 

Market Movements

A further method of analyzing the forex markets is by watching out for larger than usual shifts in the number of traders investing in a particular currency. As soon as a large number of traders invest in a particular currency, the future pool of people who might opt to sell that currency expands, with the result that the potential value of that currency is impacted upon. Analyzing market movements could be referred to as depending upon the wisdom of crowds. As has been shown in the past, that wisdom can often be mistaken. A stampede to buy or sell a specific currency could be triggered by knowledge of where the value of that currency is heading, but it could also be caused by a simple self-fulfilling prophecy – sometimes, if enough traders take a position, enough other traders assume there must be a good reason for doing so and follow suit, creating a pattern which feeds off itself with little or no external justification.     

It’s not a question of which of these three modes of analysis is the most effective, since the best results will always be gained by combining elements of all three. The deluge of data which is available, however, particularly where technical analysis is concerned, means that the wiser trader will make use of some of the tools which are available:

Session highlighter

One of the key attractions of forex trading is the fact that the currency markets are open somewhere in the world 24 hours a day throughout the week. The fact that different markets are open at different times of the day means that the sessions within those markets are likely to have different impacts on the pairs of currencies which a trader is working with. A session highlighter tool can be used to divide a traders charts into these various sessions, and then to highlight any movement that occurs over set periods, such as a minute, a specific number of minutes or an hour.     

Volatility Tool for Forex 

A volatility tool will show a trader how much, and in what way, a pair of currencies has moved on an hourly basis during a period such as the last thirty days. This enables the trader to build up a fuller picture of the way the currency pair behaves, and note any patterns such as recurring movements on specific days or at a specific time of the day. The more advanced versions of the tool will calculate the typical movement range and, given a time period by the trader, will display a percentage probability that the pair will stay within the set range.   

Signal service

Signal service providers offer instant information in the form of tips, delivered either by experts or AI systems, which recommend trades are made at a certain time and price on the basis of analysis. There are different types of signal services available, some based on fundamental analysis (i.e. news which might impact on the markets) and some on technical analysis. Signals shouldn’t be confused with the kind of AI that trades automatically on your behalf – they are merely providing information in a timely manner which it is up to you, as a trader, to interpret.  

Undertaking and applying analysis is a key practice of any successful trader. The degree of analysis a trader carries out will depend upon their inclination and appetite for hard number crunching, but the rule to remember is that while there really isn’t such a thing as too much analysis (as long as it’s used to eventually take a position), the concept of too little analysis is all too real.