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HP Labs at Discover Las Vegas – Pratyusa Manadhata on building security into The Machine

Contributed by Simon Firth, freelance technology journalist


Discover LV 2015.jpg


Pratyusa_thumbnail.jpg“As we reinvent computer architecture for the age of massive data, we have an incredible opportunity to fundamentally rethink our approach to computer security as well,” says HP Labs researcher Pratyusa Manadhata.


Early computer architectures weren’t built with security in mind, he notes. “We’ve tended to always think first about functionality and only address security as problems have occurred. But now we’re designing an entirely new architecture at HP Labs in the form of The Machine, so we can address security from day one and make sure that we have the best possible mechanisms in place.”


In a talk titled “Security for The Machine – A sneak peek at security research from HP Labs” at HP Discover 2015 in Las Vegas on June 3rd, Manadhata will outline how researchers in HP’s   are building security into all levels of The Machine, using a three-part framework of protection, detection, and recovery.


“The security community started out working on protection, then realized that we can’t stop the bad guys altogether, so we started building detection technology,” observes Manadhata. “There’s still a lot of work to do on that, which we’re continuing. But even less has been done on recovery – so we’re doing a lot of work there, too.”


Manadhata and his colleagues are also pushing the boundaries of where security mechanisms are located. Traditionally, they have resided in software layers and, as a result, once a piece of malware has infected a machine’s kernel, it can fairly easily circumvent whatever higher level security mechanisms are in place.


But the HP team is now able to build security mechanisms into every level: hardware, firmware, systems software, and the application layer. “Every layer now depends on and is protected by the layers beneath it,” Manadhata explains, “which is going to make it much more difficult for the bad guys to circumvent any of the mechanisms we’ve built.”


His talk will also address the challenges that come with such an ambitious undertaking. The Machine is designed to be highly efficient, massively scalable, and easily managed, so its security mechanisms must have those qualities, too.


In addition, for efficiency reasons, the Machine may not rely on  a variety of standard operating systems components that over time have taken on important security functions – so those functions need to be addressed in other ways. And the new architecture also features many novel hardware and software components that have never been used before. “Any time you adopt a new component, you introduce the potential for new security problems,” notes Manadhata. “You have to expect that you won’t even know what many of those problems are until people start using your technology and find them.”


While the challenges are real, so is the opportunity, Manadhata suggests. “The chance to design and implement security from the ground up, to make it a conscious design decision and not an afterthought, is fantastic,” he says. “We have a really exciting opportunity to make a meaningful contribution in the field.” 



Manadhata’s Discover presentation DT 1329  -- Security for The Machine – A sneak peek at security research from HP Labs --  is on Wednesday, June 3rd, between 10:30 to 11:00 AM in Discover Theater 1. Discover attendees can also view a demonstration of the Protect, Detect, Recover security model in the HP Labs pavilion in the Discover Zone.





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