Understanding Blockchain: Blockchain Blocks

Understanding Blockchain: Blockchain Blocks

In our previous article about Blockchain Technology, we have discussed the Distributed Ledgers where transactions in a platform is validated, recorded, and monitored by all participants in a decentralized, self-regulating manner, as opposed to traditional systems where a central entity performs all of the aforementioned functions. However, the challenges associated with distributed ledgers revolve around the act of broadcasting transactions, validating transactions, and ultimately upgrading all public ledgers. This is the original problem addressed in the original Bitcoin paper through the use of Blockchain Technology.

Before we can start discussing the elegant solution to this problem, we need to first understand how transaction data is recorded in the Blockchain. As part of our commitment to educate our clients on emerging technologies, our cybersecurity solutions experts will discuss the basics of Blockchain Technology in this article, with particular emphasis on Blockchain Blocks.

Houston Cybersecurity Solution: Blocks of Data in the Blockchain

To facilitate our understanding of how transaction data are recorded in the Blockchain, let us create a set of scenarios to illustrate multiple sets of transactions.

A group of friends from our previous article composed of Bettina, Joshua, Miguel, and Xena, is now joined by new friends Cookie, and Pizza. The original four friends, having experienced implementing distributed ledger to monitor contributions to an account, decided to adapt the same technology for facilitating transactions within their group (e.g. splitting dinner bills, borrowing and repaying money, and more). To illustrate, the group of friends dined in a restaurant and the bill amounting to 150 dollars was paid for by Miguel but they all agreed to an even split. This set of transactions should appear in all of the friends’ personal ledgers as:

  • Miguel paid restaurant 150 dollars; he is owed 125 dollars
  • Bettina owes Miguel 25 dollars   
  • Joshua owes Miguel 25 dollars
  • Xena owes Miguel 25 dollars
  • Cookie owes Miguel 25 dollars
  • Pizza owes Miguel 25 dollars

In the Blockchain, a group of transactions are validated and recorded in what is called a Block. You can imagine the 1st set of transactions of the group of friends as the 1st Block. The friends usually meet as a group during lunch. Over lunch these are the new transactions that took place.

  • Bettina paid Miguel 25 dollars; Bettina no longer owes Miguel
  • Joshua paid Miguel 25 dollars; Joshua no longer owes Miguel
  • Pizza borrowed 25 dollars from Miguel; Pizza owes Miguel 50 dollars

There were three transactions in this 2nd Block. After this block has been validated (each friend consulted the 1st block to check that they each owe Miguel 25 dollars) and recorded (the act of writing the set of transactions in their ledgers) the new transactions. The ledgers should now reflect that Xena and Cookie owes Miguel 25 dollars while Pizza owes him 50.

On the next day, only Miguel and Cookie were able to meet—the other friends were too busy with work and had to take a working lunch. Another complication is that both Miguel and Cookie forgot to bring the ledgers. Miguel misremembered that Cookie owes him 50 dollars (it was Pizza) but Cookie insists that it’s only 25 dollars. In the end, they agreed to Cookie paying Miguel 25 dollars in the meantime and confirming their accounts with their friends the next day. And because both Cookie and Miguel forgot their ledgers they each created a new ledger.

The 1st ‘Block’ of Miguel’s new ledger (in quotation because it is not yet validated) shows:

  • Cookie paid Miguel 25 dollars; Miguel thinks Cookie owes him 25 dollars

While Cookie’s 1st ‘Block’ shows:

  • Cookie paid Miguel 25 dollars; Cookie thinks he no longer owes Miguel

Come next day, the group rules in favor of Cookie after consulting their ledgers, thus forming a 3rd Block that has this transaction: a) Cookie paid Miguel 25 dollars; Cookie no longer owes Miguel. All members of the group then update their ledgers with the validated 3rd block. From this scenario, we can say the following about Blocks in Blockchain Technology.

  • Transactions are validated and recorded in the Blockchain in tranches called Blocks.
  • The current block references the previous block which references its previous block and so on, forming a chain of blocks that is the history of all transactions. This chain of blocks is the basis for establishing the validity of future transactions.
  • In the last scenario Miguel’s ledger only has two Blocks (his last ‘block’ was invalidated) while the rest has three (including Cookie’s 1st ‘block’ which was validated by the previous 2 Blocks). In case of conflicting block chains, the longer block chain takes precedence.
  • Since the current Block references the previous Block and will be referenced by a future, tampering a Block requires editing all previous blocks and editing future blocks as they are created, which is virtually impossible.

Now that we have a basic understanding of how transaction data is recorded in the Blockchain, we can now discuss consensus mechanisms by which participants in the Blockchain agree on the current status of the public ledger. In our next article, we will discuss Proof of Work, which is the consensus mechanism employed by Bitcoin and most cryptocurrencies using cryptography.

Understanding Blockchain Technology with Your Trusted Houston Cybersecurity Solutions Experts

Blockchain Technology is being used now primarily as ledgers of payments, but it can also be used to transparently record other sets of data, which by extension also gains the properties of Blockchain, that is to say immutable, virtually impossible to hack, and decentralized. Depending on how it will be utilized, this can have significant implications on different fields especially Cybersecurity Solutions.

Here in BHT Solutions, we dare to think differently to provide user-centric IT solutions tailored to our clients’ unique business needs. A large part of our outside-the-box thinking is looking to emerging technologies and understanding how its fundamentals can impact our field of cybersecurity solutions. Call us now to schedule a free 1-hour consultation.

Understanding Blockchain: Distributed Ledger

Understanding Blockchain: Distributed Ledger

Bitcoin and Blockchain are used interchangeably in today’s IT solutions jargon. Bitcoin is currently the most popular cryptocurrency. You can think of cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange such as a US dollar, but without a physical form (cash)—not hard to imagine since cashless transactions have been on the rise lately. Transactions or exchanges of value using cryptocurrency are validated, recorded, and monitored through the Blockchain technology. This is where cryptocurrency departs from traditional currency. While Blockchain was invented for Bitcoin, technology trailblazers are heralding its potential for application in different fields, especially in cybersecurity. As part of our commitment to educate our clients on emerging technologies, our cybersecurity solutions experts will discuss the basics of Blockchain Technology in this article.

Houston Cybersecurity Solution: Records that are Resilient to Hacking

Traditional systems of facilitating transactions have a central authority (banks, private companies, governments) that keeps track of the different transactions taking place. This function can be decentralized through the use of a distributed ledger.

For example, a group of friends composed of Bettina, Joshua, Miguel, and Xena promised each other to save 5 dollars at the end of each month and deposit it to a common fund so that they can buy a 240-dollar playhouse by year’s end. The group elected Xena to keep track of the monthly payments, which she records in a ledger. In this scenario, Xena is the central authority. If Xena were to lose her ledger or make erroneous entries to the ledger then the monitoring of the contributions would be compromised.

In the next scenario, each of the friends would have their own ledger and would record not just their contributions to the fund but all of the contributions made to the fund. If one of the friends were to lose their ledger or make erroneous entries then they can still consult the other ledgers. This system is an example of a distributed ledger.

The advantages of a distributed ledger over centralized ones were mentioned in the discussion above. There is no one entity that controls the recording and validating of transactions thus no one entity can impose its agenda or motivations on the transactions. When you open an account in a bank, you are putting your trust in their system of recording. Of course, there are laws and other protections in place to protect consumers but for most of the time this relationship is based on trust.

Another advantage of distributed ledgers is that they are resilient because there is no one single point of failure. A hacker can alter the contents of a centralized database but in order to achieve the same thing on a public distributed ledger, the hacker has to alter all of the existing ledgers. This makes distributed ledgers particularly interesting to Houston cybersecurity solutions practitioners.

However, one challenge associated with distributed ledgers as IT solutions—which may have been apparent in the scenario above—is updating all of the existing distributed ledgers for every transaction. Does each ledger owner have to physically witness the transaction? That would be impractical. If, after a friend contributes to the fund, they text or call the other friends to update their ledger that they contributed, how sure are they that the others would believe their claim or that the others would remember to update their ledgers? Is there an IT solution that would make the process more efficient? This is the original problem addressed in the original Bitcoin paper through the use of Blockchain Technology that we will discuss in the following articles.

Understanding Blockchain Technology with Your Trusted Houston Cybersecurity Solutions Experts

Here at BHT Solutions, we are committed to making complex technology concepts digestible for our clients. This is aligned with our principle of customer-oriented service where effective Houston cybersecurity solutions are engineered with the ease of use of the end users in mind. Call us now to schedule a free, no commitment necessary, 1-hour consultation.

Easy Ways to Protect Your Company from a Cyber Attack

Easy Ways to Protect Your Company from a Cyber Attack

It cannot be denied that cost-effective, personalized, and easy to use IT Solutions are a game changer for any business operation. It allows their organization to communicate seamlessly as well as facilitate other functions to make their operations more efficient. However, our increasing dependence on computers, especially in this new normal, led to an increase in cyber-attacks. As part of our commitment to provide extra value to our clients, our Houston cybersecurity solutions experts will discuss measures that you can implement easily to protect your company from cyber-attacks such as phishing.

Educating Your Employees is a Crucial Houston Cybersecurity Solution

Majority of cyber-attacks involve social engineering or the collection of techniques used by fraudsters to induce a victim to act in a certain way (e.g. give out their password, grant remote access). There is a whole gamut of social engineering techniques employed by fraudsters and they are ever-adapting, however you can protect your company by teaching your employees to recognize the signs of a cyber-attack. Teach them to be more vigilant and skeptic so they don’t fall prey to phishing attacks (LINK 1). Facilitate communication between your employees and your corporate cybersecurity manager so that your employees can easily consult them when they recognize an attack.

Utilize Houston Cybersecurity Solutions that Allow for Multi-Factor Authentication

Human error is not something we can always prevent. It may be that your employee is in a rush, stressed, distracted, or even hungry, when he or she clicked on that spoof website (LINK 2) and got phished. This is where a Houston cybersecurity solution such as Multi-Factor Authentication can come in handy. Multi-factor authentication provides an additional layer of security by requiring an extra factor to be authenticated before anyone can gain access to the system. Popular types of multi-factor authentication are one-time pins (OTPs) via phone, biometrics (eye, face, thumb), and physical objects (keys, security tokens, atm card).

Prepare a Houston Cybersecurity Solution Plan in Case of a Breach

Prevention is always better than cure but there should also be a corporate cybersecurity contingency plan to minimize damage in case of a breach. There should be a protocol for a breach on an email, social media account, stolen phone, stolen cards, etcetera. This might be tedious but it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Make Sure Your Company is Protected by Consulting a Houston Cybersecurity Solutions Company You Can Trust

The Houston cybersecurity solutions our experts have discussed above are just some practical measures you can easily implement for a degree of protection. For a personalized corporate cybersecurity solution, you can consult BHT Solutions. BHT Solutions believes in making technology work for you but in order to make that happen you should have IT solutions that are designed according to the unique needs of your business. BHT Solutions offers IT solutions that are cost-effective, personalized, and most of all easy to use. Call us now to schedule your free 1-hour consultation.

How to be Vigilant Online to Prevent Cyberattacks

How to be Vigilant Online to Prevent Cyberattacks

On the onset of the COVID 19 Pandemic, practically the whole workforce was forced to adopt telecommuting. Even those working on-site are managed by their superiors remotely, thus requiring that they interface with their managers through the internet. Our increased dependence on online IT solutions to facilitate daily operations have resulted in the increase of corporate cybersecurity attacks, both in frequency and complexity. BHT Solutions—a Houston-based Cybersecurity Solutions that can work with clients all over the country—believes that the bleeding edge of computing technology should be available to everyone to make their work easier. By implementing personalized IT solutions alongside appropriate cybersecurity solutions, any company can enjoy the benefits of technology without being vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks such as phishing and identity theft.

User Education: An Oft-Overlooked Houston Cybersecurity Solution

While some security breaches are the result of brute force attacks to crack passwords, the majority of corporate cybersecurity attacks employ social engineering such as phishing and identity theft. Social engineering is a collection of techniques used by fraudsters to deceive their target. In phishing attacks, victims unknowingly divulge sensitive information to fraudsters who are posing as legitimate entities. A company can have the most sophisticated of Houston Cybersecurity Solutions and protocols in place but if it fails to educate its users against cybersecurity attacks then it will always be vulnerable.

GENERATE A STRONG PASSWORD

According to the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, a strong password is long, complex, and unpredictable. An additional feature that makes for a good password is that it is easy for its user to recall. For an in-depth discussion on generating a strong password, you may read this FAQ from BHT Solutions.

BE WARY OF SPOOF WEBSITES

Phishing attacks usually capture user passwords by routing victims to a spoof website, a site designed to look like the legitimate site of the entity requiring the victim’s credentials (bank, email service, etc.). Users should do the following to prevent cybersecurity attacks stemming from spoof websites:

  • Inspect the URL – the link should start with “https” to denote that it uses secured encryption processes. Watch out for random substitutions, additions, or deletions that are designed to deceive (e.g. g00gle.com, macdonalds.com).
  • Check their company’s social media accounts – this is a simple but effective way of checking legitimacy because it is verified by multiple other users in the social media. Check if the website in the company’s verified social media account brings you to the same URL.
  • Bookmark legitimate websites – users should bookmark legitimate websites and provide their credentials only to bookmarked sites.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication – multi-factor authentication provides an additional layer of security in case of a password breach.

Customized Houston Cybersecurity Solutions Designed for your Specific Business Needs

We are seeing now before our eyes how IT Solutions are transforming businesses by making them more efficient. As a Minority-Owned and Historically-Underutilized Houston Cybersecurity Solutions company ourselves, we know that harnessing technology can help small enterprises close the gap. Effective IT solutions need not break the bank. BHT Solutions can provide you IT solutions that are cost-effective, personalized, and more importantly easy to use. Give us a call now and avail of our free 1-hour consultation!

Cybersecurity FAQ

Cybersecurity FAQ

Our increasing independence on IT solutions to facilitate our day-to-day processes also ushered in an increase in cybersecurity attacks, both in frequency and sophistication. In this FAQ, our corporate cybersecurity experts will discuss concepts that can help us understand what constitutes the most basic cyberattacks and what we can do to prevent them.

What is a Phishing Attack?

Phishing is a form of Cyberattack that aims to obtain sensitive information such as passwords, credit card details, personal identification numbers (PIN), One-Time Pin, etcetera from unsuspecting individuals by posing as legitimate entities and employing social engineering. Once they have obtained sensitive information, fraudsters may transfer cash from your account to theirs, conduct identify theft, and charge purchases to your credit card or apply for loans in the victim’s name.

What is Social Engineering?

Social Engineering is the psychological manipulation of individuals to convince them to perform specific actions such as falling for a phishing attack. It is also a collective term for the techniques employed by fraudsters to dupe their targets. The most common social engineering techniques employed and some of their examples are:

  • Spoofing Legitimacy – Fraudsters would use websites names, emails, logos, language, and spiels, that resemble those of legitimate institutions.
  • Negative Consequence – Targets are threatened with an impending closure or blocking of an account if unacted upon. Targets are told that the fraudsters have detected suspicious activity from their credit card and would require their PIN to reverse charges or block the card.
  • Loss of Opportunity / Urgency – Targets are told they won a prize or opportunity that has to be claimed within a short period of time.
  • Too Good to be True Claims – Targets are told they won the jackpot prize for a contest they have no memory of joining.

What makes a Password Strong?

According to the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, the strength of a password is derived from its length, complexity, and predictability. To create a strong password, users can keep the following IT Solution tips in mind:

  • Length – Making your password as long as possible (up to 64 characters) would make it stronger but the problem would be remembering it and the effort it would require to type it when prompted. Experts suggest stringing random words because that makes it easier to remember (remembering four 4-letter words is easier than recalling 16 random characters)
  • Complexity – To increase the complexity of your passwords, experts suggest using both upper-case and lower-case letters as well as special characters. In conjunction with the first tip, users may opt to capitalize a certain letter in the order of the words (capitalize first or the last letter) and switch a special character in lieu of a letter that it resembles (e.g. @ for A, 5 for S, # for H)
  • Predictability – Predictability would not be a problem if users followed the first two items. However, it goes without saying that users should not use words that hackers commonly use such as ‘password’ and ‘1234.’ Experts also advise against using personal information (birthdays, addresses, vehicle plate numbers) that hackers can easily obtain.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)?

MFA is an authentication method where a user is required to provide two or more evidence (factors) in order to gain access to an application or website. The most commonly-used factor of course is the password. The goal of an MFA is to provide an additional layer of protection in case the password is compromised. Other types of factors that can be used for authentication are:

  • Knowledge-Based – PIN, security question, pattern lock 
  • Biometrics – Facial recognition, fingerprint, voice recognition, iris scan
  • Physical objects – Security tokens (USB sticks), bank cards, keys
  • Location-based – GPS, Intranet connection
  • Mobile-Phone Based (technically under Knowledge-Based but facilitated by a mobile phone) – One-Time Pin (OTP), Third-Party Authenticator apps (e.g. Google Authenticator)

Consult your Trusted IT Solutions Company

This FAQ is brought to you by BHT Solutions, an IT Company that has the experience you can trust. In BHT Solutions, we believe in harnessing the power of IT solutions and making it work for you. Schedule your free consultation now and help us transform your workflow!

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