blockchain MIT

Is blockchain the answer to higher ed’s cybersecurity problems?

Why the education industry needs better than bank-grade security, and how blockchain technology could be the answer.

It’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a time when federal agencies, corporations and nonprofits join together in one universal cause: to make the internet safer and more secure.

These parties may support different industries and interests in their daily lives, but creating a safe online space positively affects each and every American. In the past year alone, we’ve seen massive breaches from Equifax (impacting 143 million Americans), voter-data exposure (impacting 198 million Americans over the last decade), and now an attack on Deloitte, whose  “customers include 80 percent of the Fortune 500.”

Unfortunately, there are many more unnamed here, and countless more to follow. Cybercriminals don’t discriminate either: they can affect individuals, businesses, or larger economies as a whole.

Theft that Makes Higher Ed a Perfect Target

Typically, identity theft is demonstrated through the loss of money and personal information for individuals; for businesses, its’ assets and data. But another type of theft is also at play-intellectual theft; it occurs when a potential employee’s credentials are hacked, or even worse, unverified.

Intellectual theft will continue to grow as Americans pursue more online education. Constant innovation and new technologies are prompting more and more people to invest their time and efforts in continuing education after graduation. The great news is that they don’t need to put their lives on hold to attend in-person classes anymore, many universities are offering online programs, and massive open online courses (MOOCs) are plentiful, and often free.

This is both good and bad: There is a hunger for advanced qualifications and programs that fit a modern lifestyle, but verifying whether someone actually took a course or got credit for it is difficult.

Cybersecurity, Credentialing and the Power of Blockchain

As learning has gone online, issuing digital stamps of achievement has become easier to issue, but also easier to fake; and it’s not just entry-level individuals misrepresenting their experience. Take, for example, this story of former startup founder Isaac Choi, who used his false credentials to drive his company out of business, and defraud his employees of their wages. Intellectual theft has massive consequences for individuals, businesses and the economy.

That’s why our company was the first in the industry to adopt blockchain verification, most commonly used in the financial services industry.

Blockchain is most well known for powerful digital cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but it can be programmed to record anything of value, not just financial transactions. Simply put, blockchain verification protects identity, data and critical infrastructure by creating a decentralized, incorruptible ledger of online transactions.

We first launched this new program on June 1, and have since issued over 5,000 blockchain credentials. For us, it was and still remains, the best tool to secure a digital credential.

The implications for the industry are huge: using blockchain means we can now offer credentials that are unhackable and unfakeable.

It also means that we can help remove the stigma for employers when interviewing candidates with certifications from lesser-known or non-traditional institutions. Not everyone can graduate from an Ivy-League school (or a traditional college or university, for that matter), and rarely does anyone take the same road to educational and professional achievement. With blockchain verification, we can help the world place their trust in a sound technology, rather than relying on preconceived notions on how or when something should be learned.

Businesses constantly weigh risk: financial, reputational, economic or competitor-related.

In an age where reputation and trust mean everything, verifying an individual’s educational attainment is both consequential for the legitimacy of online learning, and the future of the workforce.

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

eSchool Media Contributors