The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) announced on July 20 that it has awarded Salt Lake City-based startup Evernym a $749,000 Small Business Innovation Program (SBIR) award to develop an easy-to-use, decentralized mechanism for managing public and private keys needed for the secure and scalable deployment of blockchain technologies.
Under the SBIR Phase II contract, Evernym will design and implement a decentralized key management system (DKMS) for blockchain technologies based on National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-130, titled “A Framework for Designing Key Management Systems.” The research project is being managed by the S&T Cyber Security Division’s (CSD) Identity Management project.
“A better, more secure method is needed to safeguard the identity and privacy of web-users,” said Acting DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology William Bryan. “Research in blockchain holds significant potential to provide a solution that will make it considerably more difficult to hack an online user’s identity.”
Through a project titled “Applicability of Blockchain Technology to Privacy Respecting Identity Management,” Evernym is developing a DKMS—a cryptographic key management approach used with blockchain and other distributed-ledger technologies—to boost online authentication and verification. Within a DKMS, the initial “root-of-trust” for all participants is a distributed ledger that supports a decentralized identifier—a new form of root identity record.
“Managing public and private cryptographic keys in existing public key infrastructure as well as permissioned and permission-less blockchains continues to be a difficult challenge,” said S&T Identity Management Program Manager Anil John. “Through this project, Evernym will push the limits of the emerging decentralized key management system technology to deliver a high level of comfort to the public and American businesses as they integrate blockchain technologies into their technology portfolio.”
Initiated in 2004, the DHS S&T SBIR program is a competitive contract awards program that increases the participation of innovative and creative U.S. small businesses in federal research-and-development (R&D) initiatives and facilitates private-sector commercialization of SBIR-funded solutions. A SBIR Phase II awardee continues its R&D from a completed Phase I project that successfully affirms the scientific and technical merit and feasibility of a proposed effort. S&T’s CSD leverages the SBIR program to fund small business development of new and enhanced cybersecurity solutions.
For more about the S&T SBIR program, visit /science-and-technology/sbir.