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The emerging blockchain technology represents an innovative leap forward that has many uses and applications across multiple sectors of the economy.

But is it potentially relevant to the homeland security enterprise (HSE)? If so, what needs to be proven before its use and adoption by the federal government?

According to newswise.com, the US Department of Homeland Security – Science and Technology Directorate (DHS-S&T) has been taking the lead with research and development projects in this area to determine viable uses for the technology.

Blockchain powers the engine that drives Bitcoin’s digital currency’s transaction confirmation process. The technology provides a level of independently verifiable tracking and transparency for every exchange of the digital monies involved. For each transaction, another “block” of transaction information is added to a public ledger on a shared database. So, if someone wanted to track the history of a particular unit of digital currency, they could. Gone are the concerns of “version control.” The blockchain process and database are touted as secure and tamper-proof and the technology is highly resistant to hacking and data modification.

Blockchain transparently stores all the information about every transaction involving the Bitcoin cryptocurrency so the same Bitcoin cannot be spent more than once.

Some have called blockchain the “second generation of the Internet,” with proponents claiming it will enable everything from letting users police the monetary system to providing unlimited communication channels. Some even assert it will replace lawyers via the use of smart contracts.

Its uses encompass almost any transaction involving money, goods and property, while reducing fraud.

The US DHS – S&T sees the benefits of blockchain in the homeland security enterprise realm, such as:

  • Sharing of emergency responder credentials across federal, state, local, tribal and international borders by authoritative parties with no single point of failure
  • Creating immutable records and audit logs of data that cannot be spoofed and can be publicly verified without revealing personally identifiable information
  • Improving traveler experience in airports by reducing redundant checks
  • Reducing fraud in the transfer of goods across international boundaries that touch multiple entities who do not trust each other

Proving the security and privacy aspects is precisely where S&T currently is focusing its resources. It is doing so via Small Business Innovation Research projects to investigate the various capabilities of blockchain. This includes security and privacy characteristics as well as exploring its immutability, data integrity and anti-spoofing aspects via a Silicon Valley Innovation Program project.