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Fighting cybercrime with cybercurrency

Monday 09 October 2017

As a recent wave of high-profile ransomware attacks sweep the globe, blockchain technology appears to be promising a solution to the crisis.

In recent weeks, estate and letting agencies have been warned against a number of cyber attacks affecting both businesses and consumers.

And as the recent ransomware attack on the NHS demonstrated, demanding a ransom to be paid in bitcoin, hackers are becoming more sophisticated - but so is the way to combat them.

Blockchain has been around for a few years now and was initially introduced as a way to store and send cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. However, as the technology has gradually spread worldwide, people have begun using it in a variety of ways in numerous industries, including as a means to increase cybersecurity.

How does it work?

Think of blockchain as a bank and bitcoin as the currency, but without the physical assets. The technology allows digital information to be distributed but not copied by assigning information with its own unique signature which becomes void if altered, in theory, reducing the risk of fraud and money laundering.

Who's using it?

Countries across the globe are now utilising and adopting blockchain as part of their land registry systems. Sweden became one of the first country's to trial the technology for real estate back in July 2016. Meanwhile, the Ukranian government recently announced their partnership with California-based start-up Propy, which plans to allow foreign investors to make online real estate purchases for the first time. The UK have even jumped on the bandwagon by exploring the use of blockchain for the digitisation of their own land registry.

Last month, Worcestershire-based letting agent Property Plus, agreed to allow agency fees and deposits to be paid in Bitcoin, as well as sterling. The move, they said was to promote the idea of 'sound money', and whilst they don't expect demand to be strong to start with, they are trying to encourage as many businesses as possible to get involved with the crypto currency.

London developer The Collective has also begun to accept Bitcoin as a means of paying deposits, with rents to follow suit later this year.

Asset and management corporation, the Knox Group, are another company to catch on to the trend by recently announcing a £250 million Dubai property development, due to complete in 2019, which is offering dwellings to be purchased in the digital currency, pushing bitcoin into the mainstream.

What are the benefits?

The big selling point of cryptocurrencies is the way in which they use blockchain technology to make transactions trustworthy; the idea that once committed to the blockchain, transactions are immutable. 

Because the structure provides a secure form of storing and sharing information online, it is becoming increasingly harder for criminals to get away with using Bitcoin for criminal activities, such as ransomware attacks.

By decentralising and cryptographing sealed databases, not only could blockchain change the future of financial transactions, but it also has the capability to remove the middleman from the current property exchange process.