Are Your Conversations On Messaging Apps Secure?

Concerns regarding issues such as censorship, privacy and escalating cyber threats have meant that organisations are putting added measures in place to make their communication platforms more secure and private. In order to achieve this, people are now using blockchain technology to completely circumvent the reliance on centralised organisations and protocols to gain greater control over their data.

To get a view on the increased usage of messaging apps and how users have fallen victim to malware and hacks, as well as how blockchain could provide a layer of privacy and encryption to the data exchanged, we contacted Simon Harman, Co-founder and Project Lead at Loki, for a brief interview.

Simon has been heavily engaged in the blockchain industry since 2015, and before making the move into blockchain development. His broad skillset and adaptability led him to be an influential member of the cryptocurrency scene. A recognised industry thought leader and blockchain expert, Simon played a role in the redesign and running of the Talk & Trade, a weekly discussion about current affairs within the blockchain and crypto industry, at the Blockchain Centre in Melbourne, assisting startups in educating themselves on blockchain technologies and its potential use cases.

The following is the full transcript of the interview:
CSA Editor: Please share your views on today’s cybersecurity landscape and in what ways can blockchain technology be used to enhance cybersecurity.

Simon Harman: As public awareness over the importance of security and privacy grows, the average internet user, government official, or corporate executive still does not understand the basic workings of digital security. Complacency towards and a lack of understanding around digital security is widespread. The blockchain is not necessarily going to improve this by itself, but it is one of many tools that can be used to reduce reliance on central authorities when operating online.
CSA Editor: More and more organisations are putting added measures in place to make their communication platforms more secure. But just how have users of messaging apps fallen victim to malware and hacks? What are some of the most popular methods of attacks?

Simon Harman: Messaging is proving itself as the evolution of email, which has been widely abused since its inception. These new generation communication tools are quickly becoming some of the biggest information honeypots out there. If a hacker wants access to someone’s account, all it takes is their full name, date of birth, and address. Would-be hackers can make a fake call to their phone company and essentially gain access to a person’s phone number through ‘SIM splitting’. From there, the hacker can use SMS to gain access to a wealth of supposedly secure accounts and information. Against a motivated attacker, SMS and email are weak protections for account security.

An additional threat to platform security is internal. If an employee of a major tech company is compromised or malicious, there is often little stopping them from harvesting account information for their own benefit even from the most secure of messaging services. A complete record of who has talked to who and when probably exists in each of these services – an immensely valuable dataset.
CSA Editor: How should enterprise users protect their online messages and transactions in today’s cyber threat climate?

Simon Harman: Enterprise users should leverage public key cryptography. To an extent, this already happens with RSA keys but much more can be done to protect user data. Enterprises should be far more willing to purge old records and store them offline. The GDPR in Europe has set some good standards for this, but enterprise users also need to put in place better schemes to reduce the power any one individual can exercise on corporate systems.
CSA Editor: What is it about blockchain that makes messaging apps more secure than the encryption technologies already being used currently?

Simon Harman: Blockchain technology cannot be readily used to make messaging more secure. However, Loki uses its own blockchain to regulate and capture the state of our distributed network of messaging servers. Using this self-regulating distributed network, the Loki blockchain spreads the control and responsibility of routing and storing messages. No one individual can ever glean enough information about where messages are being sent to, or who from. Users do not need to reveal their IP address through their interaction with the system, preventing third parties from knowing their physical location. There are no long-term records of message history kept – all data about these messages is stored by the user on their own device. They can delete it and control it as they see fit.
CSA Editor: Where does Loki fit in all this? How does Loki help companies overcome their privacy challenges?

Simon Harman: Loki is an application of some of the best privacy technologies available today. It will be a system used by governments, companies, and individuals to conduct sensitive business online. By facilitating a secure and private channel for transacting, communicating, and accessing the internet, we give companies a free and open tool to move money, negotiate confidential agreements, exchange intellectual property, manage internal disputes, and a range of other critical business interactions in a secure environment.

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