Blockchain is a digital ledger that holds records of transactions through multiple computers, particularly those involving cryptocurrency. The ledger is linked through a peer-to-peer network and is incorruptible as the records are immutable. (That means they can’t be changed. You can remember this by thinking about mimes. Mimes cannot speak; they are mute. So, if you have an immutable system, then mimes can’t steal your data.)
The predominant benefit of using blockchain systems is that they can be used for virtually any industry, such as needing the security for sensitive information that healthcare deals with or the accessibility for decentralized organizations like Airbnb or Uber.
Blockchain itself has several different types, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Some examples are:
- Public Blockchain – anyone can jump in and join the fun. Many people interact with the blockchain, which means the network is constantly being grown and, in theory, improved. However, public blockchain tends to be anonymous, so while the files are safe, there is a more significant threat of attacks, and with a lot of people, the processing speed can be slow. You can think of this like a buffet. There are many options and many people, but that might mean someone grabs all the breadsticks or lets their germ-encrusted kid touch everything.
- Private Blockchain – Miners require permission to access this blockchain. While it isn’t exactly rock and stone, one can only access it if they are first given permission by management, which can limit the parameters of what the miners are allowed to do. Some advantages are the ability to have specific matchmaking through invites, knowing and understanding exactly who is engaging with the blockchain, and greater security, making it harder for threatening rivals to infiltrate the mine. However, the rigid structure can cause mistrust between the miners and management. As the private blockchain grows more popular and more people join, the threat of its influence seeping into other groups grows, leading to attacks.
- Consortium Blockchain – The best-named blockchain is owned by a government or a group of organizations instead of a single controlling entity. These are run between the controlling organizations, meaning no one outside of the controlling companies can gain access. This decentralized control increases the overall security as attacks cannot strike the entire blockchain control through a single instance. A significant advantage of joining the consortium is scalability. As the circle of trust grows, so too can the blockchain. However, with multiple owners comes a potential lack of trust, so the blockchain can be at threat of a broken relationship far more than broken security.