The US military wants its own encrypted messaging app built on blockchain

DARPA looks for suppliers to create a secure system to keep communications safe from hacker attacks.
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

Will encrypted system keep US troops' messages safe from hackers?

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The US Department of Defense (DoD) wants to create a new encrypted messaging system based on blockchain technology.

The request has come from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which said it is looking for suppliers to develop a secure messaging system that "separates the message creation, from the transfer (transport) and reception of the message using a decentralized messaging backbone to allow anyone anywhere the ability to send a secure message or conduct other transactions across multiple channels traceable in a decentralized ledger".

The DARPA document said there is a "critical DoD need" for a secure messaging and transaction platform accessible via web browser or standalone application.

"Legacy messaging and backoffice infrastructures, traditionally based on centralized, unencrypted hub-and spoke database architecture, are expensive, inefficient, brittle and subject to cyber attack. The overhead costs of maintaining such architectures is rising rapidly. Many organizations unknowingly keep duplicate information and fail to ensure synchronization thus amplifying the potential for data theft and data corruption/rot," DARPA warns.

Switching to a new messaging platform could help the DoD speed up communications while making them more secure. Using a customized blockchain implementation, the document said, means significant portions of the DoD backoffice infrastructure can be decentralized, so that documents and contracts could be instantly and securely sent and received "thereby reducing exposure to hackers and reducing needless delays in DoD backoffice correspondence".

"The messaging platform would act as the transport for a cyptographically sound record of all transactions whether they be [Military Interdepartmental Purchase Requests] MIPR, contracts, troop movements or intelligence."

Troops on the ground in "denied communications environments" could also use this as a way to securely communicate back to HQ "and DoD back office executives could rest assured that their logistics system is efficient, timely and safe from hackers".

The DARPA request also includes the sort of functionality you might find in messaging services such as Snapchat-like "one-time eyes-only messages", although it does also require "ease of use for individuals in less than ideal situations".

The request came via the DoD's Small Business Innovation Research program, which aims to find new technology from smaller suppliers. Phase one would see a decentralized messaging platform built on the framework of an existing blockchain framework. This stage would involve experimenting with encryption schemes, evaluating hardware and developing a blueprint of the platform architecture mapped to DoD constructs. Phase two involves the development, testing and evaluation of a working prototype, while phase three will focus on commercialization and full-scale implementation of the platform.

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