Blockchain for intelligence supply chains

Blockchain use cases for supply chains are typically associated with traditional commerce, using a distributed ledger to secure and accelerate the sequence of processes, resources and material that produce and distribute goods or services for consumption. But intelligence production and dissemination — commonly understood as collecting information of law enforcement, military or political value — is a supply chain too, wherein the assets produced and shared with decision makers take the form of information about entities of interest. This article describes how blockchain for these non-traditional intelligence supply chains provides a secure, distributed ledger of intelligence information providing military force commanders, civilian law enforcement officials, and intelligence analysts with immediate access to a common, trust-worthy, verifiable source of fused intelligence complete with provenance.

The big idea

Blockchain for intelligence supply chains traces the origin and refinement of intelligence assets throughout their lifecycle and across the intelligence supply chain. They provide the authoritative, tamper-proof current-state and provenance of each entity-of-interest — person, place, thing, and their relationships — from creation to removal in a shared, immutable intelligence asset ledger.

The intelligence supply chain problem

Intelligence collection, processing, evaluation and dissemination (PED) processes continually identify and assess disparate pieces of collected intelligence data, relating each new piece of information to known and unknown entities of interest in an effort to develop, maintain and provide the most complete and accurate understanding of these entities to decision-makers. However, the intelligence findings (intelligence products) and related source data are often fragmented, incomplete, and even contradictory. This makes it difficult for decision-makers to know how trustworthy any one piece is.

Initial analysis is typically performed on a per-sensor basis rather than on an all-source, holistic-entity basis, leaving the hard job of all-source correlation, fusion, assessment and entity updating to later stages of the intelligence supply chain. Different systems, people and processes work on the data, storing their independent findings and results in different systems and repositories, relying on enterprise-wide search solutions and meta-tagging to find the disjointed information when the need arises.

There is no single, authoritative provenance for the collected findings of these fused intelligence entity assets, making it difficult for decision-makers to trust and take timely action.

The blockchain solution

A blockchain intelligence supply chain provides intelligence users and their decision-support systems with a secure, trusted, shared ledger of all intelligence entities of interest, providing the most current known state of an entity as well as its history. Any proposed intelligence-based updates to entities in this common ledger require endorsement and consensus among applicable and authorized intelligence-network stakeholders prior to writing the agreed upon updated information to the append-only immutable ledger. Once in the ledger, it becomes immediately available for consumption by existing decision-support and analytic systems.

Blockchain technology and public-key cryptographic infrastructure (PKI) ensures that each ledger transaction is signed, encrypted and cryptographically chained to all preceding transactions to provide immutability, accountability, privacy, un-frameability — protection from being accused of doing something that you didn’t do — and auditability. Endorsement policies and smart contracts encoded in signed, encrypted programming language and applied by each endorsing supply chain member prior to committing any updates to the ledger unambiguously define and unfailingly apply intelligence community verification and validation business policies to each proposed entity update transaction.

Each member of the intelligence supply chain has their own local instance of the ledger for ready and speedy accessibility, and all endorsed ledger updates are independently applied by and synchronized across each node in the intelligence supply chain using an automated consensus mechanism to ensure every member has a consistent view in almost real time.  Fine-grained security controls ensure that intelligence supply chain members and intelligence-data users see only the information they are authorized to see.

Additionally, when paired with a blockchain cross-domain solution, the intelligence supply chain can be extended across different government and military network security domains — for example multi-national information sharing.

The value to you

  • More trust-worthy intelligence. Consensus-based, permanent and transparent record of all entity-related intelligence findings and updates reduces opportunity for false, misleading, contradictory information to be introduced and promulgated.
  • Easier access to a single source of truth. Automated replication to intelligence community network nodes makes the trusted intelligence information easily accessible.
  • Easier to fuse new pieces of information to existing entities. Single source of truth for all known entities makes it easier for analysts to fuse newly collected data.
  • Auditable justification for intelligence-based decisions. Definitive, unalterable record of what was known or unknown by decision-makers at decision time.

Explore more about how blockchain can be deployed as your intelligence supply chain solution through the IBM Blockchain Dev Center.

I look forward to more great conversations on the advantages of blockchain as an intelligence supply chain solution.

Source: Tim Olson, IBM, Senior Certified Architect – The Open Group