top secret

A major US defense agency devoted to advanced R&D is seeking to create a secure, blockchain-based messaging system.

Disclosure of the still-theoretical system, comes courtesy of a notice posted to the website of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an office in the US Department of Defense (DoD) that has long played a role in promoting emerging technologies.

Among the more famous DARPA projects as ARPANET, a predecessor of today’s Internet.

According to the notice, DARPA is seeking pitches for a "secure messaging system" that would use a "decentralized ledger" to facilitate the broadcast of encrypted secrets in a transparent fashion.

The notice explains:

"There is a critical DoD need to develop a secure messaging and transaction platform accessible via web browser or standalone native application. The platform separates the message creation, from the transfer of the message within a secure courier to the reception and decryption of the message."

DARPA envisions three stages for the project.

The first would focus on the development of a system "built on the framework of an existing blockchain framework", suggesting that an existing blockchain like bitcoin’s could be used directly or as inspiration.

From there, prototypes and commercial-scale versions of the network would see development and deployment, according to the notice.

Possible applications

According to DARPA, the proposed system could function as a means for offices within the DoD to interact with one another in a secure way.

Specific applications include the use of the network to organize satellite communications or facilitate interdepartmental purchases within the DoD.

The notice states:

"By doing this, significant portions of the DoD back office infrastructure can be decentralized, 'smart documents and contracts' can be instantly and securely sent and received thereby reducing exposure to hackers and reducing needless delays in DoD back office correspondence. As an example, Military Interdepartmental Purchase Requests (MIPR) could be implemented using the secure ledger.”

As a result, oversight of such purchase requests could be magnified due to the transparent nature of those distributed ledgers used, DARPA goes on to say.

The network would also potentially see battlefield applications. According to DARPA, the messaging system could be leveraged during instances in which troops are attempting to communicate.

"Troops on the ground in denied communications environments would have 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," DARPA wrote.

Top secret image via Shutterstock

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