Email built on top of a blockchain platform might provide more communications security than centralized alternatives.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has definitely created a clear delineation of remote work: The reliability of a company lies in its email service provider for all forms of communication.
Let’s start with the origin of email. Email has been around for more than 50 years and is a formal channel of communication across the world. With more than 3 billion users, it is the most widely used and instantaneous form of communication.
The first example of email can be found on computers at MIT in a program called “MAILBOX,” dating all the way back to the 1960s. However, it was only in 1971 that Ray Tomlinson invented and developed electronic mail, as we know it today, by creating ARPANET’s networked email system.
Email as a channel of communication is not truly secure
It’s estimated that people all over the world send around 320 billion emails every single day. Back in 2019, enterprise cloud-native security firm Avanan revealed in its “Global Phish Report” that one in every 99 emails is a phishing attack, meaning around 300 million phishing attacks were attempted every day in 2019.
Back in 2016, IT security firm Hold Security estimated that more than 272 million email records and passwords of email accounts are offered to be purchased on the darknet. A buzzworthy example from this year was when prominent journalist Nidhi Razdan filed a cybercrime cell complaint in January with the Delhi Police in India after she said that she had been the victim of a phishing scam fraudulently offering a position of an associate professor at Harvard University. Another very recent example is when attackers exploited four dangerous vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange to get a foothold in the corporate network.
Apart from security issues, distractions like email service providers reading, processing and targeting ads to their users is an everyday phenomenon. Have you ever noticed the irony? The moment you create a new email address with Gmail, even before you receive your first email, an unwanted ad is already waiting in your mailbox.
In fact, until 2017, Google used its technological capability to scan all emails sent to or from Gmail users to help build detailed profiles of its users, allowing it to target them with highly personalized ads.
Even if we set aside all the security and phishing problems for a second, the idea of a clutter-free, spam-free and ad-free inbox is practically impossible to imagine. Keeping the centralized nature of emails in mind and the various issues that come along with it, an email service built on top of a blockchain platform provides solutions to any or all drawbacks that current centralized email services have.
What should decentralized email be focused on?
Security is of paramount importance when it comes to email. The decentralized nature of blockchain technology will provide the highest level of security when it comes to emails. Peer-to-peer networks are not only next to impossible to break into but also provide the highest level of protection when it comes to data, personal information and passwords.
Next comes 100% privacy, which is again possible by realizing cryptographic algorithms, asymmetric key systems and hashing functions. To achieve perfection here, one has to ensure that the best possible combinations are taken into consideration and implemented.
The constant influx of unwanted emails at all hours of the day can be taken care of easily, and a “clutter-free inbox” can be provided using smart contracts. The inbox experience goes several notches up when these possibilities can also be integrated with smart contracts.
There could be a possibility to create a one-time email address to share with strangers, which could later be completely erased. The option of creating a fixed-time email address, from a duration of one day to several months, is also a possibility. This powerful feature makes it much easier to choose a reliable provider, without having the almost-permanent digital footprint of an email address.
Work-life balance actually becomes a reality if one does not receive any work email alerts from 9 am to 5 pm. However, in several industries (including crypto), this is likely not possible, so the duration can further be customized and personalized, catering to the needs of the business.
Auto prioritization of emails is under one’s discretion, along with the ability to delete unread emails. Via smart contracts, email built on top of a blockchain network can easily control access to any employee’s emails by providing them only to the person/s in charge. Moreover, the inbox would be protected from unwanted advertisements, data mining, monitoring, tracking or profiling.
How should the blockchain solution look to make this solution succeed?
In order for the above features to be a reality in a decentralized system, the blockchain should be:
- Scalable: Blockchains today are not scalable. On the Ethereum blockchain, only 15 transactions can be validated per second. This means that it is in no way able to handle millions of emails a day. Hence, the blockchain should inherently have the capability to handle millions of transactions per day with almost instant validations.
- Sustainable: Blockchains consume much more energy than any system present. For example, the Ethereum blockchain consumes 1.02 kilowatt-hours per transaction. This means for a single day if 1 billion emails are exchanged, the Ethereum blockchain would consume 1.02 terawatt-hours. The energy consumption of the blockchain should be so light that it has to compete or be comparable with centralized systems
- Secure with absolute privacy. Even though blockchains are secure, they are prone to 51% attacks, where malicious nodes occupy 51% or more of the network. The cryptographic algorithms, asymmetric key mechanisms and hashing functions provide the highest level of encryption. Security is inherently built inside privacy mechanisms.
Having said that, not all blockchains are capable of or configured to provide email services. Scalability, sustainability and security should be carefully considered when choosing a blockchain protocol. Most, if not all, blockchains meet one or two of the three main requirements, with a few exceptions.
All of these issues could vanish when using email on top of a blockchain, but keep in mind that the grass is only truly green when all three criteria — security, scalability and sustainability — are met.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the authors’ alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.