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US DHS tests blockchain to track cross-border activities

In a bid to detect and stop intruders trying to obstruct devices or manipulate the data, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is testing blockchain technology to secure cameras and other devices at ports of entry, including borders and airports, in the United States, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Kevin McAleenan, deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, noted that although sensors are useful for detecting border activity, Internet of Things (IoT) networks can be vulnerable. The blockchain project, partly aims to prevent spoofing – where an intruder tries to gain an unauthorized access by pretending to be the legitimate user. McAleenan explains that the idea is to better protect data exchanged between the devices and human agents guarding borders.

Factom, Inc., an Austin-based blockchain firm that received $199,000 grant from DHS last June, is working on the project.

Peter Kirby, chief executive of Factom, said that device data, including visual and other information about travelers and goods moving across U.S. borders, would be safe when stored on a blockchain. He said that the technology could be used in maintaining data integrity, which could be used later as evidence in prosecutions.

“Data and images have to hold up in court,” he said. “This lets multiple parties agree on a single version of the truth.”

Suggesting blockchain use in other areas, McAleenan said that the agency could implement it in international trade to verify the provenance of goods coming into the U.S., as well as international travel to identify high-risk flyers and expedite security checks for common travelers.

The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) sees huge potential in blockchain technology. A recent blog post on the DHS website listed some homeland security enterprise (HSE) use-cases that could be enabled by this technology:

  • 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
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