Let me tell you why I am really excited about the launch of the Intel Science and Technology Center for Secure Computing. The reason is: ISTC-SC is going to bat for the end-user, all of them not just the ones who are technical or motivated to actively manage their privacy and security. Behavioral studies have shown that users prefer to focus on the benefits of their devices and apps, not managing security.

The ISTC for Secure Computing center is embarking on an ambitious program to develop the technologies that seamlessly and automatically ensure the trust of the user in a variety of client and mobile devices and platforms. Simply stated – the research goal of the center can be summed by the acronym SCRUB, Secure Computing Research for User Benefit.

The center brings together top academic minds from UC Berkeley and four other top tier US schools (Carnegie-Mellon, Duke, Drexel, and University of Illinois) as well as four Intel researchers in a collaborative open IP environment. The center is co-led by Prof. David Wagner (UC-Berkeley) and John Manferdelli (Intel Senior Principal Engineer). These thought leaders supported by bright young students, have organized the SCRUB research into five thrusts, each addressing a key component of end-user security. The thrust areas are:

  • Secure clients using a “Thin Secure Intermediation Layer”, providing partitioned and isolated software domains on a single device. This allows critical activities to run in a secure zone, while keeping “risky” activities in well-isolated relaxed partitions.

  • Secure mobile devices from third-party apps by developing tools to build and validate the safety of these apps. Provide a simple permissions system for users that enables safe use of third-party apps across business and personal environments.

  • Secure data storage, transmission and use that guarantee the safety of user-data regardless of where it is moved and used, while preserving the user intent. Develop a data encapsulation and safe use policy system.

  • Secure network architectures enabling scalable global monitoring of application semantics, while assuring data confidentiality for the individual user.

  • Secure analytics by learning how to detect adversarial activity, and develop models and tools for measuring, tracking and analyzing the flow of information

An important outcome from this effort will be to bring together a community of academics in partnership with industry colleagues to nurture the growth of critical thinking in the secure computing arena. This means publishing research results, growing the next generation of technical leaders by training the next generation of students, and providing the basis for new business opportunities for new products and services in ways not yet imagined. Not only has Intel provided funding for the center but it has significantly simplified research collaborations and amplified the potential impact of the center by encouraging an open IP model.

I believe that the ISTC-SC research thrusts together form the key components of security and trust concerns on end-user clients and mobile devices. I am looking to the day when I can install an app, manage financial records, and communicate with friends and business colleagues from my home client devices to the smartphone, all safely. Yes, I am one of many users in a digital future who stand to benefit from the research of the new ISTC on Secure Computing.

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