Blockchain Security in the Legal Software Environment

When the Bitcoin blockchain was first released a decade ago, it was released strictly as a monetary system. It was followed a few years later by the Ethereum blockchain. What made Ethereum different is that its blockchain was built to facilitate software development rather than just buying and selling. The foundation created by Ethereum is that which makes it possible for software engineers to incorporate blockchain into legal case management software.

Engineers can harness the power of blockchain to manage a law firm’s billing and accounting. Blockchain can be used to facilitate matter management and secure online communications. It can even be used to deal with calendaring and scheduling. Yet with all of the potential blockchain brings to the table, there are also concerns about security.

Despite what you may have read online or heard through the media, blockchain is not invincible. It is certainly more robust than most other internet technologies out there, but there are ways to breach its security. Software developers and customers alike need to be aware of potential security breaches in order to prevent them from occurring.

Two Means of Breaching Blockchain

Fans of blockchain technology are quick to point out how difficult it is to breach a distributed ledger due to cryptography, proof-of-work algorithms, and the need for multiple computer nodes to agree on changes before those changes become permanent. All of those security features are fantastic to the extent that they work. Yet there are two ways to breach a blockchain ledger despite such security features.

The 51% Attack

The first method is to launch what is known as a 51% attack. This is an attack that seeks to take control of at least 51% of the computing power needed to maintain a blockchain ledger. Once such control is obtained, those behind the attack can freely rewrite code as they see fit. They can also steal anything they want from it.

Cryptocurrency platforms address this risk by requiring a tremendous amount of computing power to mine a single coin. The more power required, the less likely any single entity will succeed in gaining 51% control. In the arena of legal case management software, the problem is addressed by limiting access based on permissions.

A legal case management application could assign permissions only to a certain number of users needing access to the ledger. Those designated people would be trusted individuals within a law firm’s inner circle. As long as the system remains permission protected, an outside attack is nearly impossible to pull off.

Breaching the Software

The second means of breaching blockchain is to attack the software around it. This is possible due to the nature of blockchain. In other words, blockchain technology does not make an application in and of itself. It simply provides for a ledger to track and maintain data transactions. Software has to be built around blockchain to make it usable.

That software is still open to all the same security breaches that affect non-blockchain applications, according to the makers of NuLaw. So software developers still have to be on their toes to make sure what they create around blockchain is as secure as possible.

The Future of Blockchain for Legal

It is quite possible that the legal sector will gradually adopt blockchain technology on a larger scale. Blockchain is the future of software as a whole, and there is no reason to believe that legaltech would be left out. In light of that, it is critical for software developers and law firms to understand that blockchain does have its limits. It’s not wise to assume it is invincible.

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