Cornell researcher warns blockchain isn’t foolproof

Blockchain technology may not be the interoperability savior everyone is hoping for, according to a Cornell researcher who splashed cold water on the hype surrounding the new technology.

During a conference hosted by MIT Technology Review and the MIT Media Lab, Emin Gün Sirer, an associate professor at Cornell University, said the coding structure and design of blockchain technology could be susceptible to vulnerabilities that could compromise an entire system.

“The Bitcoin client is about 30,000 lines of code,” Gün Sirer said during the Business of Blockchain conference, according to MIT Technology Review. “It’s amazing that we haven’t found as many mission-critical bugs as one would expect, and in fact that’s a testament to people who have worked behind the scenes on it.”

Gün Sirer added that the cryptography technology first utilized by Bitcoin isn’t foolproof, and industries need to plan for potential failures. Lucia Savage, former chief privacy officer at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, highlighted blockchain's potential imperfections, adding that the segmented ledger that values security also makes it difficult to correct errors.

RELATED: Blockchain could save healthcare from interoperability woes

Researchers at MIT Media Lab were among 15 winners recognized by the ONC last year as part of a blockchain challenge. The application, known as MedRec, has emerged as one of the most promising blockchain applications for the healthcare industry after it was pilot-tested at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Earlier this month, Jason Goldwater, senior director at the National Quality Forum, said value-based care will emerge as a primary incentive driving hospitals to adopt blockchain technology that could improve care through better interoperability.