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Pentagon Wants Its Own Secure Messaging System

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The Pentagon needs an app that lets troops communicate with headquarters without fear of being intercepted by hackers.

The ideal system would let messages self-delete, prevent decryption later after they’re sent, and be viewed only once, among other secrecy-preserving features. It could be used to transmit intelligence, contracts and other documents impenetrable by outsiders and reduces "needless delays” in DOD’s back office correspondence, a notice from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency reads.

Through the Small Business Innovation Research Program, DARPA wants technology to separate out the creation, transfer, reception and eventual decryption of the content. It would rely on a “decentralized ledger” to log and trace the transactions, "removing questions as to the authenticity and integrity of the data," and could be accessible via a web browser or a standalone app.

Regulators with access to the ledger could verify that military interdepartmental purchase requests did not violate acquisition laws, the solicitation said. Nation states could use the platform to share information about the location of satellites, the solicitation said, though that might require a “separate but equivalent ledger."

The project has three phases with several goals: first, to build a model for the platform including plans for encryption and the hardware from which the messages are to be transmitted; second, to test a working prototype that can track aircraft and satellites with simulated data; and third, to implement and commercialize the platform with features such as “repudiation or deniability.”

Interest in encrypted messaging seems to be mounting. Earlier this month, Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp, with hundreds of millions of users, announced it would encrypt all users’ messages so “only you and the person you're communicating with can read what is sent, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp.”

DARPA did not respond to Nextgov’s request for comment.

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