Can blockchain ensure integrity of data from border sensors?
One of the advantages of blockchain technology is its ability to create an immutable record and make it readily accessible to multiple parties. During a six-month field test, Customs and Border Protection will deploy the distributed ledger technology to ensure that data coming from cameras and sensors has not been intercepted or modified.
“CBP is interested in solving a problem with sensor cameras that are used in the border scenario and across a variety of networks,” Anil John, a program manager in the Cyber Security Division of the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, told GCN. “We wanted to ensure that the data coming off the devices, whether they are cameras or underground sensors, has not been changed or tampered with in any shape or form.”
On June 15, Factom — an Austin, Texas-based startup — was awarded $192,000 for this fourth and final phase of the Silicon Valley Innovation Program to secure internet of things data.
The project involves installing blockchain software into CBP’s cameras and sensors along the border and creating a network that could identify when those devices have been spoofed. The work, according to Factom Chief Marketing Officer Jay Smith, is prompted by “well-funded organizations” that can spoof the data coming from the sensors so that illegal goods can come across the border undetected.
Factom’s blockchain assigns identities to the cameras and sensors and builds a hierarchical identity management into its protocol so that when another camera or sensor gets added to network it can be identified, Smith said.
Factom will test its anti-spoofing capabilities in a controlled field test in Texas where the temperature, connectivity and operational conditions will be similar to real-life deployment scenario.
Information from the cameras and sensors will not be stored on the blockchain, but rather in a database where the hash values of the devices’ data are accessible via application programming interfaces.
“We store the videos themselves on conventional hard drives, and store hashes of the video files on the chain,” Smith said. “The software that generates the hashes is fully proofed, so there is no opportunity to mess or spoof it.”
The sensor network will be private and permissioned so that only CBP, Border Patrol agents and other entities putting the sensors on the network will have access to the blockchain. Although the field test will determine how the cameras and sensors will actually work in the field, it is not necessarily indicative of plans to use the anti-spoofing technology on the border in the long term, Smith said.
“We built the devices in our laboratories and CBP is providing the access and facilities at the site,” he said. “We are going to test our systems in the real world and analyze the results.”
The directorate is also working CBP’s Office of Trade Relations on applying blockchain to shipping, logistics and customs data to increase visibility into globally distributed supply chains. That use case could help verify compliance in trade agreements that require a certain percentage of an item’s components to be produced or assembled in a free trade country.
Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.
Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.
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