The blockchain – what it is part 2

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by Lumai Mubanga

Enhancing Integrity through a chain of interconnected blocks

In part one we discussed what blockchain is in terms of a shared public database, and uses cryptographic properties to enhance security. We compare it to some features in comparison to conventional databases.

In this article, we continue to look at that comparison by considering other features that make it unique and adaptable for worldwide use such as distributed, a chain of blocks and process integrity.

Cryptographic properties

We start with the cryptographic properties. A database that would have thousands of users at anytime, anywhere in the world would require cutting edge security features to secure it. This is especially so if the blockchain will handle thousands of transactions involving both financial and sensitive data. That is how the cryptographic feature came into the design. Two keys, private and public became essential for this purpose.

Distributed and decentralized

The next unique feature is what is known as a distributed and decentralized database. In the conventional design, the database is held on one server and each user accesses it from the same point. What this entails is that, if that database becomes corrupt, everyone losses out unless a backup is restored on the server. This creates a single point of failure. For the blockchain, however, distributed mean that there is no single point of failure. Each participant has a complete (distributed) copy of the entire blockchain on their personal computer. If that copy is corrupted, you have a ready backup available from multiple computers across the network. Decentralized means that it is not controlled by one master entity. These features allow for the thousands of participants to have access at any time without restrictions based on time and or access tools.

A chain of blocks

It is not by accident that it is called a blockchain. A chain of blocks in a line is easy to account for. That’s the idea. In a blockchain, the essence is to create a chain of blocks of information that would be easy and visible to track. What you have is a chain of perfect history of information that is easy to verify and track. For instance, if you’re keeping a transaction record of real estate properties, you can see the previous owner of the property and the current owner. This gives you a perfect audit trail. When this is done on a worldwide database, you have access to accurate and secure information at the click of a mouse.

Process integrity

Process integrity guards against data corruption and illegal updates, more especially for a worldwide database. Blockchain is designed with that in mind where two things if not three must occur before any reading or writing to the database can happen. The two credentials, i.e. the private and public keys must match and the majority participants must verify those credentials before any updates are made.

With these properties, blockchain meets the basic characteristics of a worldwide, decentralized but trusted system.

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