Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), along with the Control System Security Center (CSSC), develops an easy-to-use, plug-and-play security peripheral for all computers.
Computer security often comes in software packages, and the hardware part is usually in the form of the software’s installing/access medium. This idea is quite different from AIST’s newest research project, which instead takes the concept of external security devices, like USB malware scanners, on a closer level.
Named aptly as the Security Barrier Device (SBD), this peripheral is a customized FPGA board, and its primary function is to control storage access on any PC unit. The SBD is designed to be universally compatible, which means it doesn’t need driver software, and it also does not have any operating system restrictions. Just connect it to any computer unit, and it’s ready to go.
For a PC hard disk, the SBD would first save the proprietary/custom access information of the HDD’s data sectors. If a system attempts to access a section of the disk, the SBD would first check its access info, much like an external version of an operating system’s standard access security option. For instance, if the SBD is set to prevent read access, it would only spew out dummy data for the selected sectors. If write access is instead prevented, then the protected data sectors would not be overwritten.
There is also a feature that allows the SBD to check if the data sectors in the hard disk match the data that are being read or that are already written to it, promptly rejecting an access command if required. It is also capable of allocating accessible sectors as with any disk management program, and if the peripheral detected an unauthorized access attempt, it would immediately cut-off the computer’s connection from every network it is connected to.
The SBD controls data access externally, but at the core level, so management can be done regardless of the storage medium’s current state. There is potentially no risk in case the security software data occupies a faulty or bad sector, or if the medium is already infected with malware.
In the future, AIST’s researchers plan to shrink down the size of the peripheral to that of a standard video card. The finalized version is also slated to expand its connection versatility to USB, HDMI, and to just about any port that could read (output) and write (input) data. Lastly, while at the moment it is only compatible with NTFS storage media, they also plan to make the SBD compatible for EXT and FAT file systems.
Source: AIST (JP)