UPDATED | June 18, 2018:
The Department of Homeland Security announced on June 15, 2018, that it has awarded Factom an additional $192,380. This funding is for the fourth and final phase of the Silicon Valley Innovation Program, in which Factom's IoT systems will be tested in realistic operational scenarios.
ORIGINAL | January 30, 2017:
Back in April 2015, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be establishing a presence in Silicon Valley. This wasn't about spying on startups, but engaging with them and building relationships with technology innovators.
That's what led the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) to award a $199,000 grant to Factom, Inc. in June of 2016. The grant was meant to "advance the security of digital identity for Internet of Things (IoT) devices," according to a DHS press release. The project is titled "Blockchain Software to Prove Integrity of Captured Data From Border Devices," and it's part of the DHS's Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP). Dr. Reginald Brothers, Under Secretary for S&T, said:
"IoT devices are embedded within our daily lives – from the vehicle we drive to devices we wear – it's critical to safeguard these devices from adversaries. S&T is excited to engage our nation's innovators, helping us to develop novel solutions for the Homeland Security Enterprise."
Factom is working to secure IoT devices like surveillance cameras. They want to authenticate device identity to prevent spoofing, and ensure the integrity of data captured from those devices. Factom can accomplish this with their proprietary blockchain-based technology.
Due to the blockchain's ability to keep an immutable record, Factom is using it to create an identity log of IoT devices. This log "captures the identification of a device, who manufactured it, lists of available updates, known security issues and granted authorities while adding the dimension of time for added security," per the press release.
This would make the spoofing of a device much more difficult, meaning a criminal couldn't hijack a security camera and loop the footage. A looped camera feed, like you may have seen in movies, can make it appear as if there's no one standing in front of a bank vault, when in reality there are several men drilling into the vault and removing all the money. Not only would the blockchain let you know if a security camera is legitimate, it would also prevent tampering with any footage or captured data from a secured device.
ETHNews reached out to Factom to see how the project was progressing. Peter Kirby, Co-founder & CEO of Factom, Inc., said:
"Factom finished the first phase with DHS to demonstrate that devices can be secured with the blockchain. We've moved onto a second phase (with a new grant) that explores deeper device level identity and data integrity."
The second grant was also from Homeland Security, but they have not disclosed the amount. Regarding how the blockchain could specifically help secure IoT security devices from hackers and spoofing, Peter Kirby continued:
"The blockchain lets us tackle two problems:
1) Can you definitively identify the device and have it sign the data it sends?
2) Can you prove the data wasn't modified later?
Once an identity is secured with the blockchain, a spoofing device won't be able to fake that identity. And once the data has been signed and time-stamped in the blockchain, a middleman can't edit or loop the data."
This is all made possible because of the blockchain's distributed ledger technology, which allows all relevant parties to share the same record of data. Once a device's identity is on the blockchain, and its data has been time-stamped, its original state is preserved in the blockchain ledger. If any of that data were compromised in any way, the blockchain network would fail to reach consensus and the fraudulent activity would be brought to light.
The blockchain can protect the integrity of the devices that keep us safe and secure. This project simply highlights another great use case for distributed ledger technology and shows the blockchain's ability to improve our IoT systems, as well as our daily lives.