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RSA Conference Takes Heat For Suggesting That Blockchain Replace the Internet's Most Important Protocol

Computer security experts were baffled by the suggestion promoted by a major industry conference.

3 min read
Crypto's adoption rate mirrors that of the early Internet (Image: Vladimir Sukhachev)

In brief

  • RSA Conference promoted a blog post suggesting that the Internet’s main protocol TCP/IP be replaced with blockchain.
  • TCP/IP and blockchain serve different purposes and are not interchangeable.

What’s the quickest way to turn Cybersecurity Twitter against you?

As the organizers of the RSA Conference, a major gathering of computer security experts, discovered today, it’s to propose replacing the Internet’s main protocol, TCP/IP, with blockchain.

Last night, the RSA promoted a blog post on Twitter that argued that the “Internet has a serious fundamental flaw: the transmission control protocol/internet protocol.”

TCP/IP is the protocol on which the Internet runs. The author of the post, Rohan Hall, the CTO of blockchain payments company RocketFuel, suggested that the protocol centralizes the Internet and is to blame for the rise in credit card fraud.

Hall argued that “blockchain can eliminate the TCP/IP’s fundamental security flaws.”

To attendees, it was like putting salt in their morning coffee instead of sugar. After a firestorm, RSA hastily deleted the blog and the tweet. “We will do better. We are not blaming an intern,” it said.

TCP/IP and security

TCIP/IP was built in 1972 for the US Department of Defence’s ARPAnet, a precursor to the Internet. It breaks down information into small packets and sends it across the Internet.

Since these protocols weren’t designed for mass use, they lacked security provisions to protect the data against attacks. These days, however, the Internet has beefed up its security to compensate for the lack of protection offered by TCP/IP.

The Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol encrypts and verifies private data transmitted via TCP/IP, and the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) does a similar thing. Hall, however, didn’t compare blockchain to TLS or SSL.

RSA Conference, or the main sponsor RSA Systems, is named after Rivest–Shamir–Adleman, a public-key cryptosystem that is widely used for secure data transmission. Launched in 1991, the conference attracts around 45,000 people every year.

Another anomaly that irked the cybersecurity experts was more elementary. The RSA site introduced Hall as a “30-year veteran in the blockchain and DeFi space.” Blockchain, of course, has been around only since the invention of Bitcoin in 2008.

UPDATE: Author of the blog post responds

In a July 7 email to Decrypt, RocketFuel CTO Rohan Hall asked for the chance to respond to the RSA's removal of his blog post.

Hall says: "The RSA article was written in the context of payment choices available to consumers today, specifically credit cards and cryptocurrencies. The intent of the article was to highlight the native advantage cryptocurrencies have in the payments space due to their trust-less architecture and not requiring third-party intermediaries. At no point was my intention to propose replacing the Internet’s main protocol, TCP/IP, with blockchain. I could have clarified or updated the article, but never got that chance, as it was taken down before I could respond to comments."

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