Have you ever tried to access a website, and waited … and waited … and waited until you eventually get an error like a “502 Bad Gateway” or a “500 Internal Error” or some jargon that basically means “stop right there, you can’t get through”?
Chances are, your favorite site has been a victim of a denial of service attack or a DoS. And if your favorite site is unfortunate, it would probably be a distributed denial-of-service or a DDoS variant, which means the server went under because of the sheer volume of hits from hundreds or even several thousand client computers at the same time.
In 2016, attackers have successfully upped the ante, hitting target servers with traffic in excess of 1 Tbps. And what’s so unfortunate about it all is that, for potential attackers, it is becoming cheaper and cheaper to conduct such attacks, with so-called “DDoS for hire” wherein attackers can simply pay to target and bring down a website.
You can even find such miscreants offering their zombie botnets for as low as $5. Even legitimate penetration testing services can sometimes unwittingly contribute to the mix.
Such botnets are mostly made up of a global network of computers compromised through other means, such as Trojans and malware. Attackers can thus remotely control their collection of computers, which will end up doing more damage.
The sad part is that DDoS attacks cost businesses an average of $400,000 per hour in damage, including lost business opportunities, lost sales, and even lost customers due to some damage in reputation. Another unfortunate thing is that it can be expensive to hire even a cloud-based DDoS protection service. Small businesses might be forced to fork out hundreds of dollars per month, even if they end up not using it (which means they are lucky enough not to get under attack).
I will spare you the boredom of yet another discussion on what blockchains are.
What we can focus on, this time is how blockchains can help fix the internet by leveraging on the distributed consensus and smart contract mechanism.
One such technology is being introduced by Gladius, which is a decentralized network for DDoS protection and CDN. Currently, companies that offer DDoS protection have a centralized approach. Even if they offer cloud-based services, they still own the infrastructure and are extremely expensive.
With a blockchain-based approach like Gladius, no one actually owns the network. Rather, it is built with individual nodes from around the world, forming a global network that can essentially absorb any traffic from a DDoS attack.
It’s simple, really – users install the Gladius software on their computers, and their machines will now act as nodes in the blockchain by sharing their bandwidth.
In other words, you are donating and monetizing your underutilized bandwidth to protect and accelerate websites through the world.
But the beauty here is how the network will compensate these users for being the nice guys – for sharing their unused bandwidth and storage. With its Ethereum-based smart contract mechanism, nodes that share their resources get paid with Gladius’ tokens, which can be spent as payment for services or exchanged for fiat money.
DDoS attacks do not happen all the time, however, which is why the platform also acts as a content delivery network, which speeds up website access by caching content across its global network of nodes.
Thus, Gladius is essentially a marketplace where bandwidth can be shared and sold, all with the aim of making the internet a better place for both users and website owners. The company is raising funds through an ICO and has set its sights for a product launch early 2018.
Bonus tip: Emails are ripe for disruption, too
We’ve talked about bandwidth and blockchains improving web access. But what about other popular internet applications, like email? It turns out that email servers – which are also prone to bandwidth-based attacks and spam – can also benefit from blockchain tech.
A startup called Cryptamail is launching an email network that has no centralized servers. By using a pure blockchain approach to sending and receiving emails, the system is not susceptible to attacks on any single node on the blockchain.
This also means that messages cannot be read without the private key – which makes Cryptamail more secure than regular email, wherein there is a risk of compromise if an attacker is able to access the email servers somehow.
One key benefit here is that through blockchains, nodes get to earn tokens for participating in the network – this is how Bitcoin miners have been getting their reward, after all. And with tokenization, there is some cost for sending messages across, which can discourage spammers. Meanwhile, users can get compensated fairly for receiving legitimate marketing material that they may like.
Blockchains are already changing the way we send money, share information, and secure our networks. The benefits are clear – as a decentralized and distributed system not just for consensus but also for value exchange, we can address the shortcomings of centralized systems, which are the potential single points of failure.
Blockchains also enable us to share excess resources and sell them back to the system, which is probably an economist’s dream come true. This means blockchains will enable us to attain a true sharing economy, wherein there is no wasted resource. Hopefully, DDoS attackers and other malware authors would get discouraged.