Military Applications of Blockchain Technology

Military Applications of Blockchain Technology

By Rear Admiral Dr. S. Kulshrestha (Retd.)
Indian Navy


Military Applications of Blockchain Technology

“Blockchain protocols are a new class of protocols that are extremely resilient to attack ‒ they gain that resiliency by virtue of being decentralized,” - Professor Emin Gun Sirer, Cornell University

Blockchain technology is fundamentally a mutually trustable storage facility for information transaction between multiple users. It is a decentralized and secure way to record, share, store, and redistribute information. There is no central authority controlling the Blockchain; it is run, monitored, and owned by everyone. Anyone can download it free and run it or develop it for new applications/types of transactions, just like an open source code. It enables verification of the transactions at any time without impinging upon the privacy of the involved parties. Blockchain technology has the capability to become a disruptive technology during the current decade itself.

“A Blockchain is a magic computer that anyone can upload programs to and leave the programs to self-execute, where the current and all previous states of every pro­gram are always publicly visible, and which carries a very strong crypto-economically secured guarantee that programs running on the chain will continue to execute in exactly the way that the Blockchain protocol specifies.” - Vitalik Buterin of Ethereum

Two main pillars of Blockchain technology are the ‘distributed consensus’ and ‘anonymity’[1]. It has applications in both the financial and the non-financial fields. In the non-financial sector major companies like IBM, Amazon, Samsung etc. are exploring innovative ways in which to use the Blockchain technology. The near term possibilities include putting ‘proof of existence’ of health data, legal papers, registry certificates (birth, marriage, death), a digital trail of assets etc in the Blockchain.

IBM and Samsung have developed a system called ADEPT[2] (Autonomous Decentralized Peer To Peer Telemetry) that uses design concepts of Bitcoin to construct a distributed network of Internet of Things. The ADEPT utilizes three protocols-BitTorrent (file sharing), Ethereum (Smart Contracts) and TeleHash (Peer-To-Peer Messaging).

In the financial sectors, big banks find Blockchain a secure and reliable technology and are looking into a host of applications. R3, a financial technology firm is creating a framework for financial applications[3] using Blockchain technology for a consortium of 15 leading banks. R3’s Corda distributed ledger platform was used by the banks to design and use self-executing transaction agreements. Two prototypes were created using distributed ledger technology for smart contracts. The consortium included Barclays, BBVA, BNP Paribas, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Danske Bank, ING Bank, Intesa Sanpaolo, Natixis, Nordea, Scotiabank, UBS, UniCredit, US Bank and Wells Fargo.

Military Applications


The NATO Communications and Information Agency is currently evaluating proposals in areas of application of Blockchain technology relating to military logistics, procurement and finance, Internet of Things, and other applications of interest to the military. The proposals have been submitted as part of the 2016 Innovation Challenge[4] aimed at accelerating transformational, state-of-the-art technology solutions in support of NATO C4ISR and cyber capability requirements.

U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) had raised a critical need for a secure messaging and transaction platform accessible via a web browser or standalone native application. DARPA has therefore sought proposals vide SBIR 20162[v] to “Create a secure messaging and transaction platform 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.”

“Whenever weapons are employed … it tends to be a place where data integrity, in general, is incredibly important,” …“So nuclear command and control, satellite command and control, information integrity are very important.”[6] - Timothy Booher,  Blockchain program manager, DARPA

Critical Weapon Systems

DARPA has awarded a $1.8 mn contracts [7] to Galois for their Blockchain application Guardtime Keyless Signature Infrastructure KSI, to Verify Integrity Monitoring System for its potential to build a form of unhackable code for an enhanced security in critical weapon systems. KSI can detect advanced persistent threats (APTs) which work to remain hidden in networks. Galois works in the area of formal verification, which is a technique that provides mathematical assurances that a system works only as intended in all cases.

Conclusion


The blockchain is a promising technology. However, as is the case with all new technologies, the following are relevant:

  • Users would have to get used to the fact that, under Blockchain technologies, electronic transactions are safe, secure and complete.
  • Since it is in its nascent stage, scaling up presents issues which need to be resolved.
  • Legal frame work has to be modeled to include Blockchain technology.
  • Migration of systems from existing centralized databases and systems could be tedious and expensive.

The fact that modern militaries are focusing on applications of Blockchain technology implies that the day is not far when its applications will percolate down to civil applications and to the common man. Further, possibilities of illegal use of Blockchain technology and hacking distributed networks may be a feasibility at a future date especially when quantum computing matures.

About the Author:

RADM Dr. S. Kulshrestha (Retd.), INDIAN NAVY, holds expertise in quality assurance of naval armament and ammunition. He is an alumnus of the NDC and a Ph.D. from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He superannuated from the post of Director-General, Naval Armament Inspection in 2011. He is unaffiliated and writes in defense journals on issues related to Armament technology and indigenization.

Publication Details:

This article was originally published in a blog maintained by Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi and it is republished on IndraStra with the permission from Author and the Original Publisher. All Rights Reserved by Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi.

References:

[1] BlockChain Technology Beyond Bitcoin, Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology Technical Report, http://scet.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/BlockchainPaper.pdf

[2] IBM Reveals Proof of Concept for Blockchain-Powered Internet of Things, http://www.coindesk.com/ibm-reveals-proof-concept-blockchain-powered-internet-things/

[3] Peyton, A., R3 blockchain consortium gets smart on trade finance, http://www.bankingtech.com/551002/r3-blockchain-consortium-gets-smart-on-trade-finance/

[4] NCI Agency innovation challenge, https://www.ncia.nato.int/NewsRoom/Pages/160425_Innovation.aspx

[5] DoD 2016.2 SBIR Solicitation, http://www.acq.osd.mil/osbp/sbir/solicitations/sbir20162/index.shtml

[6] Smart, E., US Pentagon May Use Blockchain Tech For Nuclear Warhead Defense, https://cointelegraph.com/news/us-pentagon-may-use-blockchain-tech-for-nuclear-warhead-defense

[7] Ruubel, M., Guardtime Federal and Galois Awarded DARPA Contract to Formally Verify Blockchain-Based Integrity Monitoring System, https://guardtime.com/blog/galois-and-guardtime-federal-awarded-1-8m-darpa-contract-to-formally-verify-blockchain-based-inte
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