by Cindy Huynh
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provided Factom, a startup using blockchain technology to secure Internet of things (IoT) data, on June 15, 2018, $192,380 to begin beta testing their concept.
Factom’s Blockchain Push
The $192,380 prize money was apart of the final phase of the Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP). Factom believes that by combining critical infrastructure like sensors and cameras with blockchain technology, it could help protect the authenticity and integrity of the data. While the project leverages blockchain technology, it “does not require the creation of blockchain-specific technology.”
“The early phases of Factom’s work has informed architecture choices and design decisions inherent in integrating blockchain with existing technology, said Anil Jon, the S&T Identity Management Research and Development Program Manager. “In Phase IV, Factom will deploy this technology in a realistic field environment with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to understand its operational impacts.”
Beta Testing for Reliability
Results of the beta test will allow Factom to access its impact in an outside environment. The idea is to mimic the conditions that US Border Patrol Agents operate in which include limited internet connectivity and varying weather conditions.
Factom hopes to show that IoT devices can be highly reliable from ground sensors and cameras and that the data they capture cannot be modified, spoofed or disrupted. If Factom succeeds, they will produce a more commercially viable product available to the market.
“Operational testing in a realistic US Border Patrol environment will greatly benefit the development of this technology,” said Melissa Ho, the managing director of SVIP. “SVIP’s goal is to partner with companies to produce the best possible market-ready products that address homeland security needs, and we feel that this project could reach that point.”
Blockchain Systems can Help Secure IoT Devices
Factom is not the only company that sees an excellent opportunity to secure data from smart devices using blockchain technology. In January 2017, Cisco, Bosch, the Bank of New York Mellon, Foxconn, Gemalto, and several blockchain startup companies, decided to work together to build a similar system that leverage blockchain technology and IoT.
According to The Scientific American, by 2030, there would be roughly 500 billion smart objects or devices connected to the internet. As the number of objects increase, the incentive to hack into these systems, steal or even corrupt data increases.
An example is cyber attack on the internet routing company Dyn in October 2016. The attack took down more than 80 popular websites and had even stalled internet traffic in the United States.
While the incident was a great cautionary tale, Nir Kshetri, a cybersecurity and cryptocurrency expert, is concerned that many of the next generations of internet device manufacturers like Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology are learning from previous mistakes. They are not updating vulnerabilities in the software effectively and provide opportunities for hackers to access Xiongmai-made devices and take control of the device and the data it generates.
While cyber attacks are inevitable, Kshetri believes that the combination of IoT technology, blockchain systems, and cybersecurity, could be a new approach to track, secure, and distribute security software updates on smart devices.