By Becca DeGregorio, Science Tuesday Editor
For us millennials, the only thing more frustrating than dealing with technology is our parents’ collective assumption that we are all in constant danger when we use it. Personally, a combination of daily iPhone updates and high school sermons on Internet safety has been enough to deter me from ever completely trusting anything with a keyboard.
But there’s nothing a little innovation can’t fix.
Researchers at the Boston University Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering have recently received a $10 million Frontier grant from the National Science Foundation’s Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program to help enhance cyber security.
The Modular Approach to Cloud Security, or MACS, project is a five-year endeavor that aims to develop a multi-layer security system to match the chains of being that occupy our laptop and cell phone usage.
Open Snapchat. Take a Snapchat. Send that Snapchat. Hope that it doesn’t end up in the wrong hemisphere.
“What results is a gaping hole,” said Dr. Srini Devadas, a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a principal investigator with the project. “So the notion of compose-ability, which is kind of the central tenant of this project, is that we’d like to maybe ask for more at the component level, but then get the security properties at the component level composed to a solid system-level direction.”
The project is certainly a long-term ordeal for a reason. Despite how simplistic a misdirected email or an intercepted call might seem, working with “the cloud” is anything but.
“There’s a catch-22 here. It’s really hard to reason about systems. Systems are incredibly complicated,” Devadas said as he proceeded to explain the team’s anticipated strategy of piecing together individual prototypes of processors that will compose a secure system. That’s what makes the project a “modular approach.”
Will the cloud suddenly become as trustworthy as my high school health teacher by the end the MACS project? Sadly, the answer is no.
But, according to Devadas, this research will help bring the cloud closer to that level of reliability.
“At the minimum, I would be very surprised if there is not a significant academic impact,” he said. “And by that, I mean ideas and prototypes and ways of designing secure systems. This should push the envelope. We want to put our ideas out there.”
Until these ideas come into fruition, I think I’ll keep my digital guard up.