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Imperial College and UAE institute partner for cloud security research

Imperial College London is partnering with the Technology Innovation Institute (TII) in Abu Dhabi to develop a new operating system (OS) designed with cloud security in mind.

According to Professor Peter Pietzuch of the Imperial College Department of Computing, the devices and OS typically used to host cloud services in data centres today have outdated security features.

“Security has not changed much from traditional operating systems that pre-date the internet and the era of cloud services,” he said.

Such limitations have contributed to the growing regularity of data theft, cyber attacks, and ransomware attacks. As vital infrastructure like the National Health Service becomes increasingly dependent on digital services, there are concerns over the scale such threats could pose.

Thus the British university and the UAE research institution are embarking on a three-year programme that will conclude with the creation of a “trustworthy” cloud OS. It will be designed around ARM and RISC-V architectures for use in heterogeneous off-premise environments.

The partnership will begin by redesigning the hardware and software that the cloud runs on from the ground up.

“The project aims to rethink what the hardware and software stack in cloud environments should look like when you design them with security in mind,” said Professor Pietzuch.

Dr. Shreekant Thakkar, chief researcher at TII’s Secure Systems Research Centre, said efforts will be focused on ARM and RISC-V architectures as they allow for efficient sharing and compartmentalisation.

He said: “The research project with Imperial aims to find solutions based on AArch64, and it fits nicely with other research and use cases as SSRC is doing a lot of work on ARM-based and RISC-V platforms and on OS in phones and drones.

“Easily applicable to today’s mobile devices, the project’s solutions will simplify the unification of cloud and edge security approaches.”

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