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Intel develops tech to secure data-sharing

Posted: 12 Mar 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Intel  Reliance Point  database  big data 

Intel Labs and Intel's Data Center Group are opening up with regard to their joint research project codenamed "Reliance Point." According to them, the project is intended to guard sensitive data and enable organizations to assemble their databases with ease and confidentiality. Intel is looking to create a neutral, secure environment to offer limited, shared access to data among multiple parties. Reliance Point is still in the early stages of research but is now being developed in collaboration with Intel's product teams.

There is also a clear market demand for this kind of security in order to bolster big data whilst still protecting it, according to Intel.

Sridhar Iyengar, the head of security research for Intel Labs, spoke with EE Times about Reliance Point technology as it gradually begins to see the light of day. Iyengar said Intel makes observations into the ecosystem and looks at problems, as well as the hardware and software it will need to solve them.

"Security is a fine balance between a variety of spaces," Iyengar said. "There is no absolute in security."

There are many organizations that have large proprietary databases (customer databases, products, technologies, etc.) that would like to share their technology, Iyengar said.

One example that Iyengar used is US national security and the no-fly list. In this case, airlines have a database of passengers of their own aside from the one kept by the government. The two may want to combine their information to find out "if there is a bad guy on the flight." At the same time, they may not want to give up their databases to each other completely; it's not an environment in which trust is fully there.

This is exactly the type of scenario in which Intel's Reliance Point comes into play: Two sides want to protect their privacy while sharing data.

How does one allow multiple parties to share data even though they don't trust each other?

Reliance Point enables multiple parties to combine to collate information. The middleware technology takes advantage of Intel's hardware in a mutually trustworthy environment, a mutual broker-type environment. The technology enables the trust, where two parties may have not met before and have not built up a trust relationship.

Why has Intel chosen to move in this direction? Iyengar said Intel recognizes that this is a problem that needs to be solved. "As people discover new insights, they will find new uses and new processors and technologies that hadn't been there before," Iyengar said.

Nikhil Deshpande, senior business strategist in Intel Labs, told EE Times that Intel is looking specifically at big data, which enables consumers and anyone who wants to leverage "a whole bunch of analytics." On the other hand, he said, "if data remains in silos, that doesn't accomplish the goal. We think that Reliance Point helps break those barriers."

As for what kind of data we may be talking about exactly, Iyengar said it could be the healthcare data that a hospital might want to work with or national security data that governments want to share with one another. The key, he said, is not what type of data, it is enabling new modes of hearing. "Intel's advantage is we can enable scale," Iyengar said. "We have ever faster processors with Moore's Law."

The hardware that exists today is Intel TXT Trusted Execution Technology. TXT allows a server to boot up under a known environment. It measures the boot at every stage. The hardware measures the BIOS, the BIOs then measures the OS. The technology allows you to build up a chain of trust rooted in hardware. Using TXT makes sure that there is no malware in there, according to Iyengar.

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