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An Introduction to Blockchain

With the growing popularity of cryptocurrency, you may have heard another associated word circulating the internet. “Blockchain.” What is blockchain? How does it affect me or my company?

The Basics

Blockchain in essence is the technology utilized by cryptocurrency to remain secure. It is decentralized and immutable. What do these terms mean?

Decentralized means there is no singulare ntity that holds power over the blockchain who can manipulate it as they wish. It also means that there is no singular attack point for an attacker to target, should they wish to harm the network or use it to their own benefit. It is spread across a wide array of computers. Immutable means it cannot be changed as the data is stored in countless places for cross-verification.

Types of Blockchains

1.     Public Blockchains – Anyone can join this network to request or validate a transaction(mining). When you validate a transaction, you receive rewards. This is the essence of mining and why people do it.

2.     Private Blockchains – There are access restrictions to this type of blockchain. You need the permission of an overseer or an administrator to participate. They are typically centralized.

3.     Hybrid Blockchains – They contain features from both Public and Private Blockchains.

4.     Sidechains– They run in parallel to the main blockchain and facilitate asset transportation between two different blockchains.

How does it work?

Imagine you made a transaction using Bitcoin or Ethereum. Now that transaction needs to be verified. Multiple transactionsare bundled together and verified using the blockchain network via the mining process. Once they’re confirmed valid, this set of transactions is bundled together as a block, and this block is assigned a hash. This block is then added to the chain of existing blocks and now cannot be tampered with.

A hash is an alphanumeric set of characters with a fixed length (say 256). It is calculated and assigned to a specific input and that input only. Any changes in the input would result in a wildly different output.

When a hash is calculated, one specificinput can only result in one specific hash, and one hash can only refer to that one input.

In the case of blockchains, when the hash is calculated, it takes the current transactions the blockchain just verified as well as the hashes of the previous existing blocks to calculate the newblock’s hash. Therefore, if you tried to tamper with say Block 9 out of 20, blocks 10-20’s hashes would change, and an attack would be detected instantaneously.

Who Invented Blockchains?

Blockchains were first conceptualized in 1982 by David Chaum, however, the first implementation of a blockchain network was by Satoshi Nakamoto (an alias for anunknown person or group) in 2008. The network by Nakamoto is what Bitcoin is run on.

Conclusion

Overall, Blockchain seems to be the way going forward for secure transaction encryption. It is fast, secure, relatively cheaper and visible to everyone.

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