What Does Immutable Mean?


Heard people talking about the blockchain being “immutable” but not sure what it is? In this blog we will simply define and explain it.

A Simple Explanation Of Immutable

“Immutable” means not being able to be changed. In terms of the blockchain, it refers to one of its characteristics which makes it so impervious to fraud. When a new transaction or record is entered on the blockchain, it is by nature immutable. It is permanent and irreversible.

What’s in a Word?

Whenever you read about blockchain and its features, you’ll soon encounter the word “immutable”. It’s a word that enjoyed only sparse usage until the rise of the blockchain. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines it as “not capable of or susceptible to change”. It is derived from the 16th century Latin word “immutabilis” and is related to the word “mutant” which conversely means “a significant change”.

Why Is Immutability So Important?

Being immutable is one of the cornerstones and foundations of the blockchain. In the new world of Web3, trust is no longer needed because of blockchain’s immutability. When a record is updated on the blockchain, it is carved in the stone of cyberspace forever, unable to be altered by nefarious users looking to dupe others for their own advantage or re-write history. When a transaction is made on the blockchain, it too is immutable. It cannot be undone or expunged. It can only be effectively reversed by a second equal and opposite transaction. Immutability brings an unrivaled level of integrity to the table because both internal and external stakeholders can rely on the accuracy of data. Businesses spend enormous amounts of money on cyber security with the intention of keeping their data safe from attackers or external sources. But too often, that very same data is vulnerable to manipulation from internal sources. This leads to the process of auditing becoming a significant secondary expense. But the immutability of the blockchain can save those businesses two significant outlays, while increasing efficiency and guaranteeing the integrity of their data. Immutability can also settle disputes between businesses, acting as a verifiable and shared source of truth.

How Is Immutability Achieved?

Immutability is the result of cryptography and blockchain hashing. Every block in the chain is time stamped and cryptographically secured by the hashing process which links it with the hash of the previous block. This is what makes a blockchain unbreakable. If any data attempt was made to alter or delete the information in a block, its hash would no longer match the previous block in the chain and the modification would fail. This is unlike traditional databases which can be easily manipulated and overridden.

Immutable Benefits

Integrity of data – the history and data trail of every application on the blockchain can be verified. Invalid transactions are exposed because of a discrepancy between block data and its hash.

Efficient auditing – the process of cross checking any data discrepancies is simplified, saving time and money.

Proof of fault – can be used as a single source of truth to settle business disputes.

Immutable Limitations

While the immutability of the blockchain is a powerful and reliable plank, there remain opportunities to exploit it.

False data entry – immutability is only valuable as long as the original data is accurate. Blockchain will prevent data tampering. It cannot detect falsehoods.

Blockchain recreation – if there was collusion between parties and the blockchain was small enough, hashes could be recalculated and a blockchain recreated with falsehoods. This would not be possible on an established public blockchain the size of Bitcoin.

Want To Know More About Immutable?

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