As demand for data-intensive services, such as video-on-demand and online gaming increases, telecommunications providers are expanding the high-speed fibre optic networks that form the backbone of the internet. But while network performance has improved, the electronic processes and algorithms used to filter data for security threats are struggling to keep pace.
With demand for data-intensive services only likely to intensify further in the future, bottlenecks seem inevitable unless security processes can be implemented at optical network speeds.
“The amount of data being transmitted can and will get much higher as data-intensive services become more commonplace,” says Graeme Maxwell, the vice-president for Integration Technologies at CIP Technologies in the UK.
“Even with mobile phones, the data sent over 3G networks ends up on a fibre optic cable very quickly, in as little as two or three hops... It’s the data analogy of many little streams quickly feeding into a river and causing a massive flood.”
Add to the growth of wireless communications the expansion of fixed-line and cable broadband services in homes and offices, and, according to some estimates, traditional electronic security processes will soon be unable to cope.
“There is a real need for an optical security solution – and that is what we are developing,” Maxwell says.
Working in the EU-funded WISDOM project, Maxwell leads a team of researchers who have demonstrated novel optical circuits capable of searching for and identifying target data patterns at wire speeds of 40Gb/s – the fastest data rate of current commercial networks. Using custom algorithms, their groundbreaking optical firewall looks for patterns in the header content of data packets (the part of the data containing information about the sender, recipient and format) to single out possible viruses, attacks or other threats.
“Our goal is not to replace electronics with optics but to complement existing security processes,” Maxwell notes.
Filtering threats optically
The WISDOM firewall acts as a kind of primary, high-speed filter that routes suspect packets to electronic processes for further analysis. It is able to carry out optical packet recognition, interrogation and manipulation of data streams incorporating features of parity checking, flag status, and header recognition. And, because there is no optical equivalent of electronic memory, the entire process has to be carried out on the fly.
Described as an “optical firewall on a chip”, the system is built on a state-of-the-art hybrid integrated photonic technology platform developed by CIP in which silica-on-silicon circuits form an optical equivalent of an electronic printed circuit board (PCB). Much like a PCB can host different electronic components depending on its intended use, different optical and optoelectronic components can be fitted to the optical circuit board, resulting in a cost-effective and scalable solution.
The hybrid boards can also be fitted with components fit for other uses, with the WISDOM project partners foreseeing applications in sensor systems, avionics, data transmission and optical processing, as well as network security.
“Think about all the applications for today’s electronic PCBs – they are everywhere! Optical boards could have a similar range of uses in the future,” the project coordinator says.
Indeed, Maxwell expects the first commercial application of the boards to be for data transmission over fibre optic networks, with their implementation for network security likely to follow within the next five years.
“The WISDOM project is demonstrating the functionality of an optical firewall, hopefully to the point where we can bring additional manufacturers onboard in a follow-up project,” Maxwell says.
He admits that the idea of an optical firewall is still a new concept to many in the network security sector.
“There are barriers to its acceptance that need to be overcome,” he notes.
However, having survived the bursting of the dot.com bubble eight years ago that led many research groups trying to develop optical security solutions to disband, the research team, which launched the WISDOM project in 2006 with funding from the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme, are well placed to rise to the challenge.
And, with the recent boom in data-intensive services, their solution is likely to be in high demand.
Christian Nielsen | alfa
Researchers achieve HD video streaming at 10,000 times lower power
20.04.2018 | University of Washington
An AI that makes road maps from aerial images
18.04.2018 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CSAIL
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy