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empoWering prIvacy and securiTy in non-trusteD envirOnMents

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A security and privacy framework for outsourced data

Is the cloud safe? This question has been feeding conversations among Internet users ever since the first cloud services became accessible, and it is still far from being answered. The WITDOM project aimed to help close the debate by developing a new security and privacy framework for outsourced data in untrusted ICT environments.

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Over the past decade, sensitive data has been shifting from ‘trusted’ domains – local computers hosting security-critical services – to cloud providers where virtually unlimited resources are available for heavy computational tasks. The problem is that clients only have limited control over these resources, unlike the cloud service provider, which makes these environments qualify as ‘untrusted’ domains. This is where WITDOM (empoWering prIvacy and securiTy in non-trusteD envirOnMents) comes into play. Its platform, developed by a seven-strong consortium led by Atos Spain, orchestrates a variety of complex processes to protect sensitive data in the trusted domain, so as to enable secure and privacy-preserving processing, storage and sharing in an untrusted domain. “WITDOM’s main goal was to produce a framework for end-to-end protection of data in untrusted and fast evolving ICT-based environments. We put particular focus on data-outsourcing scenarios, where new threats, vulnerabilities and risks due to new uses require end-to-end security solutions that will withstand progress for the lifetime of the applications they support,” explains Elsa Prieto, coordinator of the project. To do that, the consortium investigated various data protection techniques such as homomorphic encryption, a method that allows computation on encrypted data and generates a result which, once decrypted, matches the result of the operation just as it had been performed without encryption. Other investigated techniques included anonymisation, secure signal processing (SSP), data masking, verification and integrity, and end-to-end encryption. The WITDOM framework uses the paradigm of service orientation to isolate applications from the specific implementation and location of its elements. It organises multiple protection components together in a comprehensive framework, and its architecture was adapted to hybrid cloud models. Its core components include a broker, a protection orchestrator, an identity and access management (IAM) component, and a key management (KM) service. Additional services can also be added as modular blocks. “Our framework was instantiated and validated in two application scenarios: a health scenario based on genetic data sharing for large research data analyses and individual outsourced clinical analyses; and a financial services scenario based on the management of both customers’ data and finance data of contracts as well as providing outsourced secure financial services over private and public cloud instances,” says Prieto. Additional functionalities were developed specifically for these scenarios. These include: a Genomic Laboratory Information Management System (GLIMS) which supports DNA analysis activities that require a large computational effort and storage capability; services implementing the interface between end-used in-house financial applications and WITDOM components; statistical and machine learning services to satisfy the needs of the financial scenario; and genomic services including sequence alignment, variant annotation and variant reannotation. Since the project was completed at the end of 2017, partners have been including its results in their portfolio of solutions for customers. Some patent applications were started, including a patent application by IBM on the data masking technology, two patent applications by UVIGO associated with the SSP component, one related to the genomic scenario, and another one related to the financial services scenario. “Some components, especially those that provide data protection functionalities, still need some maturation before going to market,” Prieto points out.


WITDOM, cloud, internet, trusted domain, data protection

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