With the hype around blockchain continuing to grow, the National Institute of Standards and Technology set out to dispel some of the common misconceptions surrounding distributed ledger technology.  The new “Draft NIST Interagency Report (NISTIR) 8202: Blockchain Technology Overview” gives a high-level explanation of the mechanisms behind blockchain technology and provides current examples of some of the platform’s use. To help IT managers make informed decisions about using blockchain for specific applications, NIST also addressed several common false impressions: No one is in control.

There are two basic kinds of blockchains: permissioned and permissionless.  In permissioned blockchains, individuals are invited to read and write on a private shared distributed ledger.

Permissionless blockchains are decentralized platforms that are open to all users and use a consensus method to validate transactions on the ledger in order to “prevent bad users from easily subverting the system.” A core group of developers is responsible for the system’s development, and they maintain some level of control in the interest of the larger community.  But they don’t have control over who can perform transactions within the rules of the blockchain system. It’s totally secure.

Blockchains can enforce transaction rules and specifications, but they cannot prevent colluding, malicious users from controlling a large enough stake in the system or processing power to cause damage. These bad actors could ignore specific users or nodes and disrupt information distribution by refusing to transmit blocks to other nodes in the system.

Their actions can be combatted with hard forks, which require all users to adopt a change to the protocol. No need for trust. Read more from gcn.com…

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