Researchers to test modular cloud cybersecurity

Researchers to test modular cloud cybersecurity

Researchers at Boston University have been awarded a $10 million grant for a cloud-based modular cybersecurity system.

Boston University’s Modular Approach to Cloud Security (MACS) project has been awarded a Frontier grant from the National Science Foundation’s Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program.

MACS is one of  two new Frontier grants to support large, multi-institution projects that address grand challenges in cybersecurity science and engineering with the potential for a broad economic and scientific impact.

In the project, researchers from Boston University, MIT, the University of Connecticut and Northeastern University will design and test a modular approach to cybersecurity. The project will build the system from smaller, separate functional components, each asserting its own security individually. As a result, the security of the system as a whole will be derived from the security of its components.

“Our goal is to build a cloud with clear and transparent security properties,” Ran Canetti, project lead and director of the BU Center for Reliable Information Systems and Cyber Security told BU Today. “If successful, this project will transform the way we currently build and argue about secure systems.”

“The problem with typical security on a cloud is that there is no way to check everything,” said  Azer Bestavros, a CAS professor of computer science and founding director of the Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering. “The systems are too big, and there are too many different technologies. Trying to secure the whole thing is a lost cause.”

Among the challenges the project will address are hardware with built-in secrecy and integrity; small and versatile operating systems that offer minimal functionality but are simpler and easier to analyze; privacy-preserving and verifiable memory access for outsourced applications; and algorithms for privacy-preserving, verifiable outsourced computations and database systems, BU Today reported.

A key component of the MACS project is its integration into the Massachusetts Open Cloud, which provides the research team with a testbed for deploying and testing the mechanisms researchers develop at reasonable scale. 

The Massachusetts Open Cloud is a non-profit public cloud created through a collaboration between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, five large research universities (Boston University, MIT, Harvard, Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst) as well as the Massachusetts Green High-Performance Computing Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and an array of private sector partners.

Members of the MACS team will interpret early research results and code them into a privacy-preserving solution to allow Massachusetts Open Cloud users to share systems data, a novel idea that has no precedent, according to researchers

Allowing multiple users access to such information will provide more choices for researchers conducting experiments on cloud computing and allow them to build high-performance systems at a fraction of the current cost.

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