Understanding Blockchain: Proof of Stake

Understanding Blockchain: Proof of Stake

In September 2022, Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, shifted from a proof of work (PoW) consensus mechanism to a proof of stake (PoS) protocol for its blockchain network. In this article, our cybersecurity solutions experts will discuss PoS and how it differs from PoW and how it intends to address the emerging problems of a network running on a PoW protocol.

Houston Cybersecurity Solutions: Proof of Work and Wasteful Energy Consumption

We have discussed Proof of Work in this article, a protocol that allows independent participants in a network to achieve a consensus on the current state of the blockchain ledger. For cryptocurrencies, the ledger itself is the currency as it tracks the number of tokens each participant in the network has. Transactions within the network are validated by block miners racing to compute a random number and are rewarded with tokens.

PoW is an elegant IT solution that utilizes cryptography to independently maintain its blockchain ledgers without a central authority. However, one of the issues associated with a PoW model is the staggering amount of energy it requires for computational work. The complexity of the random number changes such that regardless of the aggregate computational power of the network it should take the network an average of 10 minutes to validate a block.

As the number of miners in the network grows, the complexity of the random number also increases, which prompts miners to expand computing power (they want to guess the random number first and get rewarded) and by extension greatly increasing energy consumption.

According to the Cambridge Center for Alternative Finance, Bitcoin currently consumes 110 Terawatt Hours per year, the average energy consumption of small countries like Malaysia or Sweden. While Proof of Work is a brilliant Houston cybersecurity solution that allows independent participants to come up with a decentralized consensus, it may not be ecologically sustainable as it scales.

Proof of Stake, a Greener Houston Cybersecurity Solution?

The PoS protocol completely eschews extremely complicated computational work as a cybersecurity solution. Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum, envisions a future where even smartphones can perform the required computational work for validating the transactions in their network.

As with a PoW mechanism, the chosen validator is awarded with tokens when they validate a block. In order for participants to become block validators, they have to stake cryptocurrency tokens. The chance of being chosen as a validator is proportional to the number of tokens staked. Some models also factor in the length of time prospective validators have staked their tokens which increases their chances of being chosen.

You may be wondering, what stops a validator from adding fraudulent additional tokens to their ledger or doing a bad job at confirming transactions. Participants of networks operating under a PoS algorithm have a mechanism where they can easily check the validated transactions and if a validation turns out to be faulty then the validator stands to lose a portion, if not all, of the tokens they have staked.

Additionally, it is in the interest of those who have staked a large amount of the token to ensure that people believe in the stability of their cryptocurrency. A loss of trust in the network would ultimately result in a massive sell-off, devaluing their tokens.

Understanding Blockchain Technology with Your Trusted Houston Cybersecurity Solutions Experts

Whether you are currently utilizing blockchain technology use-cases, a cryptocurrency financial speculator and investor, or a blockchain technology non-believer, it seems that the technology is still innovating and is here to stay. As part of our commitment to making technology work for you, BHT Solutions aims to provide digestible information on the newest innovations on information technology for our clients.

If you have any concerns regarding your current IT solutions then look no further. Here in BHT Solutions, we love to make a positive impact by providing solutions that can efficiently and effectively resolve our clients’ IT dilemmas. Call us now and make technology work for you.

How to Keep Your Online Accounts Secure

How to Keep Your Online Accounts Secure

Cybersecurity attacks are on the rise alongside our increasing dependence on computing technology to facilitate our daily lives. While these cyberattacks have been increasing in frequency and complexity such as phishing and identity theft, there are Houston cybersecurity solutions that we can easily implement to keep our online accounts safe. In this article, our IT solutions expert will discuss two methods you can easily implement as well as breakdown and analyze a common phishing attack. This is part of our commitment as a company to make technology work for you by making you less susceptible to cybersecurity attacks.

Houston Cybersecurity Solution: Use Multiple Unique Passwords

Aside from ensuring that your passwords are strong, another layer of protection can be added by using multiple unique passwords for different online accounts. This approach limits the exposure of your online accounts should hackers, possibly through a phishing attempt, obtain an username and password pairing from one of your accounts. There are several dependable Houston cybersecurity solution applications such as password managers that are free to use that will store all your unique passwords should you decide to go implement this approach.

Another compromise, which is easier to implement is to use a tiered-password system where accounts of roughly the same level of security sensitivity have the same password. For example, social media accounts and secondary emails have the same password while business email accounts and primary personal emails have a separate distinct password. By the same virtue, all banking and money-related online accounts should also have a different password.

Houston Cybersecurity Solution: Setup Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) and Know How to Use Them Properly

This entry highlights how people should treat their One-Time Passwords (OTPs), one of the most frequently-used MFA. Users should treat their OTPs the same way they safeguard their passwords. If an OTP was sent to your phone without your initiation, then your account is probably under attack.

Another common phishing scam facilitated by social engineering is when a hacker calls you and pretends to be a representative from your bank and claims that someone is currently attempting to access your online bank account. They will then claim that they need to verify your identity and in order to do that they will send an OTP to the number registered in their records (what’s really happening is that they obtained your username and password combination but were trumped by your OTP.) The phishing attack is completed when you provide them your OTP. Our Houston cyber security solutions expert suggests watching out for this type of phishing attacks as well as its variations. 

In this scenario, we need to keep in mind the following things:

  • Bank representatives will NEVER ask for your password or OTP in a call or even in a face-to-face transaction.
  • If there is a suspected security breach, the priority is to freeze the account and undergo a stringent reactivation process. The hassle of doing a reactivation is a pain point that hackers usually utilize to pressure you into providing your OTP.
  • Do not panic. If your gut tells you that something is not normal with the interaction you can always drop the call and dial your bank’s customer service hotline.

If you want to learn more about Multi-Factor Authentication as an effective Houston cybersecurity solution, we have an in-depth discussion of it in this FAQ.

Keep Up to Date with Common Cyber Attacks by Subscribing to Your Trusted Houston Cybersecurity Solutions Experts

We have to remember that in all cyberattack attempts, the user is also a failure point that hackers can exploit. That is why some phishing attempts are crude but effective because of the social engineering techniques they are employing. The only way we can keep these attacks in check is by educating ourselves and our employees. Here in BHT Solutions, this is part of our commitment to making a positive impact for others in the fields of Information Technology and Cybersecurity. Should you need help with your IT solutions, look no further than BHT Solutions. We are here to solve your IT dilemmas with IT solutions that are user-centric and easy to use. Call us now and schedule your free 1-hour consultation.

Cybersecurity Awareness During the Holidays

Cybersecurity Awareness During the Holidays

Ah, the holidays, a season for sharing, celebrating, and spending time with loved ones. Without a doubt, the holidays are also the time where economic activity is at its peak. With the advent of online shopping—which is not a new thing before the pandemic hit but was probably institutionalized by it—the holidays are also the time where digital fraudsters are working overtime to pull a fast one over you and part you from your hard-earned money. In this article, our IT Solutions expert shall discuss some tips and Houston cybersecurity solutions to prevent fraud when shopping during the holidays.

Houston Cybersecurity Solutions: Detecting Credit Card Skimming and Credit Card Fraud Prevention

Credit card skimming is a fraud perpetrated by stealing credit card details and PIN numbers when a victim uses a card at a tampered atm or point of sales systems at stores. Machines that can siphon credit card details and keypads that log PIN entries, are placed on top of legitimate atm and POS systems. Watch out for ATMs and POS systems that look tampered, bulky, or unnatural, especially at smaller shops and obscure convenience stores. Our corporate cybersecurity expert suggests closely monitoring your credit card transactions to detect if one of your credits cards are compromised.

Spoof Websites, Phishing, Identity Theft and Houston Cybersecurity Solutions To Preempt Them

Spoof websites are sites designed to mimic legitimate commerce sites so that unsuspecting users will provide their credit card details and other personal details when checking out. These spoof websites are often promoted as pop-up ads or banner and marquee ads that will drive you to the scam site when you click on them. Once sensitive information is provided, the fraudsters can use them for credit card fraud or identity theft. Our IT solutions expert recommends examining the URL of shopping websites for the following:

  • Website address should start with https, which indicates that it uses encryption when transferring data and offers protection from hackers.
  • Visit the social media accounts of the brand and if it links to a different site then the site you are on is probably spoofed.
  • Watch out for wrong grammar in the captions.
  • If the prices look too good to be true, then it probably is.

Houston Cybersecurity Solutions Company That Cares for You

Here at BHT, we believe in making a positive impact on how people utilize cyber technology. Aside from educating people on cybersecurity and providing tips on making their interface with technology more secure, we have specialized in providing IT Solutions that are user-centric, easy to use, and responsive to the needs of our clients. Make technology work for you. With our help, you can have cost-effective, personalized, customer-oriented, and secure IT solutions that will grow your business to new heights. Call us now and schedule your free 1-hour consultation.

Understanding Blockchain: Proof of Work

Understanding Blockchain: Proof of Work

In our first article on Blockchain Technology, we have learned about Distributed Ledgers where information (e.g. transactions) are recorded in a decentralized manner. However, there are challenges related to the efficient updating of all existing public ledgers. This is the original problem that the creator of Bitcoin addressed through the Blockchain Technology.

In our next article, we have learned about Blockchain Blocks, and how new information is recorded in the Blockchain. In this article, we will discuss consensus mechanisms, or how participants in a network agree on the current status of a network (e.g. In a Bitcoin network, how much Bitcoin does each user have). As part of our advocacy to familiarize our clients on emerging technologies, our cybersecurity solutions experts shall explain the basics of Blockchain Technology in this article, with particular emphasis on consensus mechanisms.

Houston Cybersecurity Solution: Efficient Way to Update Public Distributed Ledger

To understand consensus mechanisms, we need to have a better appreciation of the challenge associated with public ledgers. In our example in our previous article, the original members of the “network” (Miguel, Bettina, Joshua, Xena, Cookie, and Pizza) are only able to update their ledgers when they get together. What if they cannot all meet together? How will their ledgers get updated? Imagine if the participants in the network ballooned into 100 or 1,000, this updating of ledgers through congregating as a consensus mechanism becomes completely impractical.

The members of the network thought of broadcasting their transactions to all members so that the members can update their ledgers. While this is a more efficient way than the previous method of having to meetup, there are still some issues that must be addressed. When every member of the network is being bombarded by broadcasted transactions, how can you get everyone to agree on the state of the ledger? If I receive a broadcast of ten transactions, how can I be sure that all the others updated their ledgers with the same transactions and in the same order? How can I be sure that the other 999 ledgers look the same as mine? This is the problem addressed in the original Bitcoin paper. This is where we leave our original group of friends’ scenarios and get a bit more technical.

Houston Cybersecurity Solution: Proof of Work as a Consensus Mechanism

Satoshi Nakamoto, the entity associated with the founding of Bitcoin, proposed that the network should trust whichever ledger has put in the most computational work. This consensus mechanism will also later be known as Proof of Work. This is where we will start discussing the Cryptographic aspect of Blockchain Technology and Cryptocurrencies.

Cryptographic SHA256 Function

The SHA256 is a hash function that takes in inputs in the form of messages or files (e.g. long list or records of transactions) and the output is a string of bits (0s and 1s) called Hash, which is 256-bits long. Slightly changing the input, even by just one character, changes the hash completely. However, this doesn’t mean that the output is random because the same input always produces the same hash.

The way the Hash changes when you change the output is completely unpredictable. It is virtually impossible to compute in the reverse direction, thus making it a Cryptographic Hash Function. While the core logic of the SHA 256 Hash Function is public, no one has figured out yet how to reverse engineer the message from the Hash. This characteristic of Cryptographic Hash Functions is the main reason it has been used heavily in modern security (internet connection, online banking, and many more).

Computing the Special Number

Recall in our previous article that a block in a Blockchain consists of a list of transactions. This list can be fed into the SHA256 to produce a Hash. In the Bitcoin protocol, builders of block or block miners race each other to find a special number they can put in the end of the block such that the Hash is a predetermined number of zeroes. Since SHA256 is Cryptographic, the block builders just guess random numbers until they arrive at the special number. The miner that figures out the special number gets the privilege to verify the transactions and create the new block and is rewarded with Bitcoins.

In the same protocol, the Hash of the previous block is included in the data for the next block, and so on and so forth. This is where tampering with the Blockchain becomes computationally infeasible because changing just one transaction in a previous block will change the block’s hash and would require a new special number, which would affect all blocks down the line.

Proof of Work and Decentralized Consensus Mechanism

With the concepts we have discussed above we have now arrived at a decentralized consensus mechanism that utilizes Proof of Work. It is decentralized because no one block creator or miner can consistently figure out the special number needed to mine a block unless he or she has close to 51% of all the computing power in the network (51% Attack). These miners or block creators are the one listening and compiling broadcasted transactions and when they are lucky get to complete a new block and broadcast the new block. They are rewarded in Bitcoin and transaction fees paid by other participants in the network. Other non-mining participants in the network can just simply listen to the broadcasted blocks to update their ledgers.

Understanding the Newest Houston Cybersecurity Solution with Your Trusted IT Solutions Company

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are gaining worldwide popularity as speculative investment opportunities. However, what Houston Cybersecurity Solution experts such as BHT Solutions find interesting is the potential for the technology that allows Bitcoin to operate and its application to corporate cybersecurity. Here in BHT Solutions, we love to make a positive impact by providing solutions that can efficiently and effectively resolve IT dilemmas. Call us now and make technology work for you.

Cyber Security Awareness Month

Cyber Security Awareness Month

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which has been celebrated annually following a declaration from both the US President and Congress in 2004. It is celebrated as a continuing call for individuals to increase awareness on online cyberattacks and other related threats and to familiarize themselves with Houston cybersecurity solutions that can be easily implemented to prevent them. In BHT Solutions, we believe in individuals harnessing the power of technology and making it work for them. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous individuals prey on the unsuspecting by propagating corporate cybersecurity attacks such as phishing and identity theft. In this article, our IT Solutions expert shall discuss additional Houston Cybersecurity solutions that will help further protect individuals from said attack.

Houston Cybersecurity Solutions: One-Time Pins (OTPs) Centralizes Security in Your Phone

In our previous articles, we have discussed what makes a password strong, and how multi-factor authentication (e.g. OTPs) as a Houston cybersecurity solution adds another layer of security to your online accounts. However, the problem with this is the tendency of your security checks to become centralized in one gadget (i.e. your smartphone). What if your phone gets stolen? PINs and pattern security checks in mass-produced phones are relatively easy to break into. 

Imagine this scenario. Someone gets a hold of your phone and is able to access its applications. They can easily change the password of your Facebook account because they can initiate a password recovery tied to your primary email account, which they also have access to through your phone. Now you are locked out of your Facebook account.

This next step may be quite convoluted but bear with us. Through your primary email, they can check which secondary email it is paired with. With the knowledge of your secondary email account, they can initiate another password recovery (this time for your secondary email) that will get sent to your primary email. Now that they can access your secondary email, they can now change the password of your primary email. After changing the passwords of your Facebook, primary and secondary emails, they can then change the emails associated with all of these accounts which blocks you from ever recovering them, ALMOST.

Just because they had access to your phone, without ever learning your passwords, they were able to change the passwords of your most important accounts. But all is not lost if only you were able to generate Recovery or Backup Codes. Recovery or Backup Codes are simple yet ingenious IT solutions that most users are not even aware of and even less are utilizing. 

Houston Cybersecurity Solutions: Recovery or Backup Codes Are Great Multi-Factor Authentication Augmentations

Recovery or Backup Codes are another form of multi-factor authentication. They are a one-time use, non-expiring randomly generated string that users can use to log on to their accounts. They were first conceptualized as alternative multi-factor authentication options to OTPs to allow users to gain access to their accounts even if they currently don’t have access to their phones.

But in the scenario mentioned above, it is the last recourse for individuals in case of a total security breach. Login Recovery or Backup Codes can be used to initiate an account recovery process. It will take less than 5 minutes to generate a set of Recovery or Backup Codes but they are a handy Houston cybersecurity solution tool that you can utilize at no extra cost.

You Need a Houston Cybersecurity Solution Company That Can Guide You in the Ever-Changing Domain of Cybersecurity

Corporate Cybersecurity has always been a game of cat and mouse between Houston Cybersecurity solutions companies and digital fraudsters. We have seen how adaptation of multi-factor authentication and the proliferation of smartphones have opened another weak spot that hackers can exploit. However, a simple yet effective IT Solution in the form of Recovery Codes can easily trump them.

Cybersecurity attacks should not hinder individuals from utilizing technology. We believe that unequal access to technology is a far greater injustice because technology is the great equalizer. Access to the internet allows smaller businesses to compete. In BHT Solutions, it is our commitment to utilize IT solutions to solve problems across all industries. If you are ready to employ technology to transform your workflow, BHT Solutions can solve your IT dilemmas efficiently and effectively. Call us now to avail of your free 1 hour consultation.

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