British Telecom Blockchain Patent Granted in U.K.

British Telecom, the U.K.’s largest provider of domestic phone and internet services, has been awarded a patent for a cybersecurity system designed to protect blockchains, in a move that sheds light on the company’s intentions with the technology near-term.

The patent, which was formally granted yesterday, addressed specific technologies that could be used to prevent malicious third parties from breaching blockchain systems, through delineating individual user profiles to prevent unauthorized transactions.

The mechanism would allow the underlying code of the blockchain to reject malicious transactions, or any other transaction where the user profile doesn’t validate across the system.

According to the filing, the threat of malicious attacks is one of the main obstacles to further reliance on blockchain technology.

“Despite the architecture of blockchain systems, malicious attacks present a threat to the security and reliability of blockchains.”

In addition to outlining their plans for the technology, the BT filing went further, explaining one possible use case they might look to adopt to protect against so-called “majority control” attacks.

These occur when a malicious third party with over 50 percent of a total network’s computing power attempts to wrest overall control of the blockchain.

The measures would allow the system to automatically reject offending transactions, and shut off the wider system before any majority control attacks can gain traction.

The patent goes on to discuss the threat of DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks, which look to overwhelm elements of the network under a high volume of malicious requests.

While the patent application stops short of providing any specific details on how these attacks might be handled, it notes that it would be beneficial to provide “a mechanism for detecting and mitigating threats to blockchain environments.”

The BT patent is one of the first of its kind to be filed in the U.K., as companies across industry sectors continue to research and develop new applications for blockchain technology.

It remains to be seen whether this could mean a more fundamental switch to blockchain technologies in future, with some analysts suggesting the patent could indicate intensifying plans for more distributed systems at BT.