The US Department of Defence’s DARPA research unit is investigating whether it can use blockchain technology to help secure its weapon data.
The thinking is that blockchain could have applications in a range of weapon platforms including military satellites and nuclear weapons.
This is because blockchain technology can be used to create a distributed database that can store complete transaction history of all types of records. Such a database is potentially of interest to those operating for example in banking and finance circles.
Indeed, last month IBM revealed the growing momentum behind blockchain technology. Two of its studies found that commercial blockchain solutions are being rapidly adopted throughout the banking and financial markets.
And it seems that the US military could follow suit. QZ.com reported that last month DARPA invested $1.8 million into a security startup named Galois, which is tasked with verifying a blockchain created by another firm, called Guardtime.
The military interest comes from the toughened security aspects of blockchain, which has the ability to track whenever data is viewed or modified. This ability to ensure ‘information integrity’ is a vital component for senior military commanders.
Timothy Booher, DARPA program manager on blockchain, reportedly compared it to a castle, where instead of trying to make the castle walls as tall as possible to halt intruders, it’s more important to know if anyone has breached the walls and what they’re doing there.
“Whenever weapons are employed … it tends to be a place where data integrity in general is incredibly important,” Booher was quoted as saying by QZ.
“So nuclear command and control, satellite command and control, command and control in general, [information integrity] is very important,” he said. “If someone is driving a combat vehicle, flying an aircraft, commanding a satellite, we want to make sure their focus is 100% on that mission.”
If the verification goes well, it would inch DARPA closer to using some form of blockchain technology for the military, Booher reportedly said. “We’re certainly thinking through a lot of applications. As Galois does its verification work and we understand at a deep level the security properties of this [technology] then I would start to set up a series of meetings [with the rest of the agency] to start that dialogue.”
The possible use of blockchain by the US military to help safeguard its nuclear weapons platforms would be welcomed news by industry observers.
Earlier this year it emerged that the US military still uses an ancient form of technology, i.e. the floppy disc, to secure its military codes for nuclear weapons.
Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock confirmed it was looking at how the technology could be used to manage and keep track of the distribution of public money, such as grants and student loans.
Last year, the NASDAQ stock exchange was also reportedly evaluating blockchain in order to see if it could be used in trading of shares in private companies.
Meanwhile IT services giant Accenture recently created a Blockchain editing tool, a development that could potentially undermine the central philosophy of this technology. That said, Accenture argues that a Blockchain editing tool is vital for the financial services sector and would only be used in “exceptional circumstances.”
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