U.S. Wants Its Own Secure and Self-Destructing Messaging App

  • Pentagon is trying to replace legacy back office system
  • Platform to include blockchain for efficicient communications

The U.S. government is looking to create a secure messaging service that it may one day commercialize to rival the likes of Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp and the Durov brothers’ Telegram.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency within the Department of Defense historically known for creating the Internet itself, has published a call for companies to submit proposals to build a robust messaging platform that the military could use for secure communication of everything from intelligence to procurement contracts.

"Troops on the ground in denied communications environments would have a way to securely communicate back to HQ and DoD back office executives could rest assured that their logistics system is efficient, timely and safe from hackers," according to the DARPA proposal.

The request for proposals, reported earlier by the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph, also says that the messaging platform should incorporate a customized blockchain, the distributed ledger technology that underpins the digital currency bitcoin, for recording messages and contract information. The proposal says such a distributed ledger would allow the military to conduct its business in a more efficient and secure fashion.

The Pentagon’s existing back office infrastructure is "inefficient, brittle and subject to cyber attack," the proposal says. “The overhead costs of maintaining such architectures is rising rapidly," according to the report.

The new messaging platform should also, according to the proposal, allow for the sort of one-time, self-destructing messages that have made messaging apps such as SnapChat and Kik so popular with Millennials.

The Pentagon’s interest in building a blockchain-based secure messaging app comes at a time when consumer-facing commercial messaging apps are increasingly incorporating end-to-end encryption to guard against both government snooping and the potential threat of hackers.

If the Pentagon does manage to get a working prototype of this new messaging platform up and running, the proposal says DARPA would look to roll the platform out to the entire U.S. military and possibly even commercialize the platform.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.