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What is a Blockchain Patch?

January 19, 2023 - 6 min read

Software and operating system (OS) updates are referred to as patches and are used to address security vulnerabilities within a program or product.

If you’ve ever received an electronic notification to update your software (and who hasn’t?), you likely already have somewhat of an idea of what a patch does. Software manufacturers often release updates, which can fix bugs affecting the program’s performance and add new safety functions. 

As part of Bitcoin’s infrastructure, for example, a blockchain is used to make a distributed, verifiable ledger. Blockchain security is achieved using cybersecurity frameworks, security testing methods, and secure coding practices to protect a blockchain solution from online fraud, breaches, and other cyberattacks.

With the help of a decentralized cryptographically signed trust anchor, users could use permissioned blockchain technology to improve the security of a supply chain in many ways. For example, auditing Internet of Things environments can be enhanced with blockchain distributed ledger technology.

Instead of storing supply chain data like the inventory of critical hardware or the time and date of a patch for essential software, necessary supply chain data is kept in the distributed escrow of the blockchain. This keeps time-stamped data blocks that can’t be changed after the fact, which makes the data more trustworthy and reliable.

Smart contracts make transactions that can’t be undone, and if a bug is found, it’s hard to change or fix the software codes that make up smart contracts. Software patches need to be sent out quickly, but not in seconds. Instead, they take hours or even days. Bitcoin and Ethereum have block times of 10 minutes and 15 seconds, respectively. This means that the confirmation times are short enough that they can be used to make secure software patch services.

Overview of Patch Management 

Patch management identifies and distributes software updates, or patches, to various endpoints such as computers, mobile devices, and servers. A patch is a set of updates provided by software developers to address known security flaws or technical issues. The three most common types of patches are security patches, bug fixes, and feature updates.

Patching can also be used to fix bugs, add new features, increase stability, and improve the look and feel of a program or other aspects of the user experience. Patching is therefore crucial for reasons other than security.

Importance of Patch Management System in Blockchain

Regarding keeping your systems safe, patch management is an essential component. As was mentioned, patches’ primary objective is to address functional issues and vulnerabilities related to the software’s security. Patching is vital for many reasons, one of which is to help maintain regulatory compliance. The software must be regularly updated to comply with many compliance standards. Therefore, the implementation of patch management is required for businesses to remain compliant with the many industry regulations. If compliance standards are not maintained, there may be financial penalties.

You could be puzzling your head over the above diagram and wondering what it’s trying to show you. In the above figure, we see how blockchain can link patch management systems from different security suppliers. For this reason, patch management systems create environments similar to those of clients who need the updates and provide in-depth information about software compatibility and patch update problems before implementing them. Afterward, the systems can detect and fix any update-related issues that may have occurred. When a patch is released, it is sent to the client via the distribution server.

Furthermore, any blockchain-connected client can confirm the patch is legitimate. In addition to verifying the patch itself, this client may also determine whose digital signatures and public keys have already been validated. Decreasing verification times and emphasizing software patches, information sharing, and management might be efficient strategies to increase security levels.

Consequence of Patch Hygiene on the Ethereum Ecosystem

Ethereum and Bitcoin will inevitably come up in any discussion on blockchain technology. However, have you heard that when simple patch hygiene measures are ignored, the Ethereum ecosystem’s security is put at risk? Since many Ethereum users don’t practice good patch hygiene, critical flaws in the network could remain unpatched for weeks or months, compromising the safety of the Ethereum ecosystem and its users. Many Ethereum users may be at risk if this happens. Additionally, if a widely used client app had a remote code execution weakness, the consequences of the patch gap would be much more serious. As blockchain users, we are responsible for preventing these large decentralized ecosystems from being compromised by installing freshly announced security patches as soon as they become available. Consequently, there is a pressing need for improved patching hygiene among blockchain users and the creation of new automated patching alternatives.

Blockchain-based Patch Management

The systems are either patched manually or through a third-party vendor, which can not only expose them to potential cyber threats but may also disrupt the operational environment. Blockchain technology’s traceability, transparency, and accountability features could mitigate challenges associated with patching critical IT and OT systems.

The patches are applied to the systems either manually or with the assistance of a third-party vendor, which not only leaves them vulnerable to potential cyber-attacks but also has the potential to disrupt the operational environment. However, some of the difficulties associated with patching mission-critical IT and OT systems could be alleviated thanks to blockchain technology’s traceability, transparency, and accountability features.

Since cryptographic hashing is one of the primary characteristics of blockchain that enables data-centric security, using blockchain to ensure the legitimacy, security, and possibly even compatibility of a patch is possible.

Blockchain technology could also be utilized to automate the patch management process. In this kind of scenario, an individual device can be set up to update a blockchain node, and a smart contract can be developed to run automatically whenever the blockchain identifies a new patch or its tag. Both of these things can be done independently of one another.

The process of applying a patch can be tracked through its tag in the blockchain and traced back to any point in its history. This tracking is possible throughout the patch’s entire lifecycle, beginning with its release and continuing until all assets have been patched.

Final Thoughts

For integrity, authentication, non-repudiation, and payment addresses in blockchain systems, the proof and hash functions used in blockchain have been described in detail. Patches may be installed either automatically or manually by a programmer using an editor or debugger. They can be applied to program files stored in a storage medium or computer memory. 

Using electronic signatures and public keys provided by software vendors to verify patch integrity in patch management systems, a blockchain-based method for patch management is developed to enable secure public key distribution and deal with security incidents caused by hacker attacks while boosting the dependability of distributed patches. In addition, blockchain-based patch management systems provide a foundation for future system expansion.

To level up and gain a deeper knowledge of all things related to the future of the cryptocurrency industry, check out the latest content in the Supra Academy section.

References

  1. (2009, 14 July). Understanding patches and software updates. CISA.
  2. Guo, H. & Yu, X. (2022).A survey on blockchain technology and its security. ScienceDirect.
  3. Kim, Y., Won, Y. (2019, 8 July). A new cost-saving and efficient method for patch management using blockchain. SpringerLink
  4. Lee, J. (2018, 18 Feb.) Patch Transporter: Incentivized, Decentralized Software Patch System for WSN and IoT Environments. National Library of Medicine
  5. Rapid7. (2021). What is patch management? Benefits & best practices. Rapid7
  6. Ulitzsch, V., Zeisberg, S., & Saar, M. (2022, 16 Aug.). The blockchain ecosystem has a patch problem. Security Research Labs
  7. Yantz, M. (2019, 11 Sep.). The importance of patch management. IT Support Guys

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