SecurityBrief Australia logo
Australia's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

What is a DApp and why are they useful?

By Contributor
Wed 4 May 2022

Article by CENNZnet CEO, Nicole Upchurch.

DApps are an innovative way to make use of a blockchain's capabilities. But it can be tough to find a plain English definition of exactly what they are and how they differ from traditional applications.

What is a decentralised app?

A decentralised app, or DApp for short, is an online application that connects to the blockchain in some way. It typically involves just a small component of the app connecting to the blockchain through a straightforward API. Although DApps are used in the same way as any other software application and can be based on a website or as a mobile app, they are distinct from normal apps: 

  • Totally or partially decentralised: Some activity and data in a DApp run through a distributed network of machines/nodes, i.e. a blockchain network rather than a centralised server.
  • Unkillable: If a significant amount of the DApps data is stored on a blockchain, then they have no single, central point of failure.

Optional extras often associated with DApps:

  • Open-source: You don't technically have to open source your code to make your DApp, but it's common. It gives your user base complete visibility and trust in your app.
  • Data ownership: Many DApps, specifically DApp creators, don't own their users' data. Users are empowered to own their own data, either to share with different DApps or remove it fully from the ecosystem.
  • Tokens: Many DApps embrace some form of token, which can be very useful for rewarding your community. With DApps, users' money/rewards can stay in their own wallets.

There is debate over what constitutes a DApp in the purest of senses. The key factor to remember is that DApps are built on a decentralised network.

To understand what makes DApps special, first, we need to dive into how centralised apps work. 

How do centralised apps work?

Okay, so we are going super basic here. Please forgive any generalisations. The majority of traditional apps consist of three key functions:

  • Interface: Users interact with the app via the front end of a web, mobile or desktop interface.
  • Server: Requests from the front end are then passed to a centralised server.
  • Database: Data from user actions on the front end (acquired through requests through the server) are collected and stored on a centralised database owned by a single company or individual. 

Centralisation provides low-cost hosting, fast running speeds, easy development and a tightly controlled user experience. 

However, these advantages come at serious costs, including handing over a significant amount of control to large hosting organisations and becoming a tempting target for hackers. DApps offer an alternative that seeks to solve all these problems and add a bit of social justice to boot.

How do DApps work?

Assuming that the whole DApp is built on the blockchain, we can split a DApp's functionality into three basic stages:

  • Interface: The front end is largely the same as a centralised app. 
  • Smart contract: Smart contracts are the part of the DApp that interacts with the blockchain network. In this basic explanation, the front end communicates with the smart contract using an API (while in reality, this happens via a blockchain wallet).
  • Blockchain network: Code run by the smart contract then selects and stores data on the decentralised blockchain network.

The special thing about the DApp is the bottom layer – the blockchain network upon which the entire system runs. Unlike the centralised database, which is owned and controlled by one person (or a multinational conglomerate), the blockchain network is fully decentralised, meaning it is run and seen by every user in the ecosystem. 

It's a peer-to-peer system. Every request from the front end of the app filters through every person (node) on the network. They all run the code from the smart contract and store the resulting blockchain data on their copy of the ledger. So everyone has their own record of every transaction that has ever happened on the DApp, allowing maximum visibility and community ownership of data. Mind-blowing right?

Why are DApps an opportunity for developers?

Security, security, security

Data privacy is now a legal and moral requirement for every organisation. The good news is that DApps make the job of securing user data much more manageable. 

By running on a distributed blockchain computing system, DApp stored data is not vulnerable to one single point of failure. This makes it structurally much harder (if not impossible) for hackers to steal user data, unlike the centralised storage of big tech companies. On top of that, cryptographic verification methods such as the Zero Knowledge Proof (ZKP) method make it doubly safe for data security.

Resisting censorship

For developers or customers in parts of the world where the government enjoys tighter control over the internet, this is important. There is no single entity on the network which can block users from deploying DApps, reading data, or submitting transactions through the blockchain – meaning your service can carry on regardless of worldwide pressures. Even better, by avoiding building on any of the big company platforms, they are also unable to shut down your app. 

Full trust

Everyone can check out and analyse the code run in a DApp, to make sure it's fair and accurate. This way, everyone can see exactly what's happening.

Say goodbye to downtime

Once your smart contract is deployed and set up on the blockchain, you are officially unkillable. The network will always be able to serve clients interacting with the smart contract. Hackers or other malicious parties would have to pay colossal prices to launch denial-of-service attacks on individual DApps.

DApps come with some challenges – naturally – like high computational overheads (which can be addressed by smart designs), a slower network, and the challenge of creating a user-friendly experience. DApps can certainly sound like a daunting new skillset, but with the right tools, adding a pinch of blockchain to your app is straightforward and hugely rewarding. 

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Employment
Tech job moves - Forcepoint, Malwarebytes, SolarWinds & VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 13-20, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Migration
Let’s clear the cloud visibility haze with app awareness
Increasingly, organisations are heading for the cloud, initiating new born-in-the-cloud architectures and migrating existing applications via ‘lift and shift’ or refactoring.
Story image
Remote Working
Successful digital transformation in the hybrid work era is about embracing shifting goalposts
As organisations embraced remote working, many discovered they lacked the infrastructure needed to support history’s first global load test of remote work capabilities.
Story image
Vectra AI
Understanding the weight on security leader’s shoulders, and how to shift it
Millions of dollars of government funding and internal budgets are being funnelled into cybersecurity to build resilience against sophisticated threats, indicating how serious this issue has become.
Story image
Ivanti
Ivanti and Lookout bring zero trust security to hybrid work
Ivanti and Lookout have joined forces to help organisations accelerate cloud adoption and mature their zero trust security posture in the everywhere workplace.
Story image
Customer experience
Gartner recognises Okta for abilities in Access Management
Okta has announced it has been recognised as a Customers' Choice for the fourth time in a row in the Gartner Peer Insights "Voice of the Customer" report.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Hard numbers: Why ambiguity in cybersecurity no longer adds up
As cybersecurity costs and risks continue to escalate, CEOs continue to struggle with what their investment in cyber protection buys. Getting rid of ambiguity becomes necessary.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
How to ensure ethical deployment of AI implementations
The increase in automation and machine technology such as AI and machine learning has unlocked a whole new level of scale and service to organisations. 
Story image
SaaS
Rubrik Security Cloud marks 'next frontier' in cybersecurity
"The next frontier in cybersecurity pairs the investments in infrastructure security with data security giving companies security from the point of data."
Story image
ChildFund
ChildFund launches new campaign to protect children online
ChildFund says WEB Safe & Wise aims to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online while also empowering them to become digitally savvy. 
Story image
SaaS
Absolute Software expands Secure Access product offering
Absolute Software is enhancing its Secure Access product portfolio, enabling minimised risk exposure and optimised user experiences in the hybrid working environment.
Story image
Supply chain
Jetstack promotes better security with supply chain toolkit
The web-based resource is designed to help organisations evaluate and plan the crucial steps they need to establish effective software supply chain security.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
AI-based email security platform Abnormal Security valued at $4B
"A new breed of cybersecurity solutions that leverage AI is required to change the game and stop the rising threat of sophisticated and targeted email attacks."
Story image
Qualys
Qualys updates Cloud Platform solution with rapid remediation
The new update is designed to enable organisations to fix asset misconfigurations, patch OS and third-party applications, and deploy custom software.
Story image
Phishing
KnowBe4 celebrates reaching 50,000 customers worldwide
KnowBe4 has reached the milestone of 50,000 customers, adding nearly 2,500 in the first quarter of 2022 alone.
Story image
Cybersecurity
CyberArk launches $30M investment fund to advance security
CyberArk has announced the launch of CyberArk Ventures, a $30 million global investment fund dedicated to advancing the next generation of security disruptors.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Noname Security partners with Netpoleon to target API issues
Specialist API security firm Noname Security has appointed Netpoleon as its distributor in Australia and New Zealand.
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Datacom, Micro Focus, SnapLogic and VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 6-12, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
VPN
Palo Alto Networks says ZTNA 1.0 not secure enough
Palo Alto Networks is urging the industry to move to Zero Trust Network Access 2.0 because previous versions have major gaps in security protection.
Story image
Cybersecurity
The 'A-B-C' of effective application security
Software applications have been a key tool for businesses for decades, but the way they are designed and operated has changed during the past few years.
Story image
trust
9/10 Aussies to stop spending if personal data compromised
"Based on the patterns we are seeing among Australian consumers, it is evident that trust in a brand is exceptionally important."
Story image
Workato
Workato unveils enhancements to enterprise automation platform
"The extra layer of protection with EKM, zero-logging, and hourly key rotation gives customers a lot more visibility and control over more sensitive data."
Story image
Ransomware
A third of companies paying ransom don’t recover data - report
Veeam's report finds 76% of businesses who are victims of cyberattacks paid the ransom to recover data, but a third were still unable to get their information back.
Story image
Remote Working
How zero trust and SD-WANs can support productive remote working
The way people connect with applications and data has changed, users are remotely accessing resources that could be stored anywhere from a corporate data center to the cloud.
Story image
Data Protection
Barracuda launches new capabilities for API Protection
"Every business needs this type of critical protection against API vulnerabilities and automated bot attacks," Barracuda says.
Story image
Ransomware
Alarming surge in Conti Ransomware Group activity - report
A new report has identified a 7.6 per cent increase in the number of vulnerabilities tied to ransomware in Q1 2022.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Managed service providers: effective scoping to avoid costly vendor pitfalls
Managed security services are outsourced services focusing on the security and resilience of business networks.
Story image
Phishing
Google reveals new safety and security measures for users
Google's new measures include automatic two step verification, virtual cards and making it easier to remove contact information on Google Search results.
Story image
Apricorn
Data backup plans inadequate, data still at risk - study
The Apricorn 2022 Global IT Security Survey revealed that while the majority organisations have data backup plans in place, data for many are at risk.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Physical security systems guide the hybrid workplace to new heights
Organisations are reviewing how data gathered from their physical security systems can optimise, protect and enhance their business operations in unique ways.
Story image
Application Security
What are the DDoS attack trend predictions for 2022?
Mitigation and recovery are vital to ensuring brand reputation remains solid in the face of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack and that business growth and innovation can continue.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Infoblox's State of Security Report spotlights Australian remote work hazards
Attackers exploit weak WiFi, remote endpoints, and the cloud, costing 50% of organisations over $1.3 million in breach damages.
Story image
Digital Transformation
How to modernise legacy apps without compromising security
At a time when digital transformation has become central to business, even the most important applications come with a ‘use-by’ date.
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
RedShield leverages AWS to scale cybersecurity services
"Working with AWS gives RedShield the ability to mitigate significant application layer DDoS attacks, helping leaders adopt best practices and security architectures."
Story image
Cybersecurity
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from IronNet
Michael Ehrlich joins us today to discuss the history of IronNet and the crucial role the company plays in the cyber defence space.
Story image
Sift
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.
Story image
Cybersecurity
BlackBerry offers Kaspersky replacement cybersecurity for the channel
BlackBerry advises that users of Kaspersky software in Australia and New Zealand undertake a rigorous risk analysis of their current security posture.
Story image
Nozomi Networks
Nozomi Networks, Siemens reveal software integration
Nozomi Networks and Siemens have extended their partnership by embedding Nozomi Networks’ software into the Siemens Scalance LPE local processing engine.
Story image
Cloud Security
Aqua Security createa unified scanner for cloud native security
“By integrating more cloud native scanning targets into Trivy, such as Kubernetes, we are simplifying cloud native security."
Story image
Remote Working
Australia’s remote workers face connectivity and security issues
SOTI's new report finds better video conferencing technology and improved security measures are top concerns for remote workers in Australia.
Story image
Ransomware
Cybersecurity starts with education
In 2021, 80% of Australian organisations responding to the Sophos State of Ransomware study reported being hit by ransomware. 
Story image
Ransomware
Ingram Micro Cloud adds Bitdefender solutions to marketplace
Ingram Micro Cloud has announced the expanded availability of Bitdefender solutions on the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace.
Story image
Malware
New vulnerabilities found in Nuspire’s Q1 2022 Threat Report
“Threat actors are quickly adjusting their tactics and these exploits tend to get industry attention, but the threat posed by older and attacks still persists."
Story image
Cybersecurity
A10 Networks finds over 15 million DDoS weapons in 2021
A10 Networks notes that in the 2H 2021 reporting period, its security research team tracked more than 15.4 million Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) weapons.