Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Optical firewall aims to clear internet security bottlenecks

European researchers are developing the world’s first optical firewall capable of analysing data on fibre optic networks at speeds of 40 gigabits per second. Their work promises to save the internet from the looming threat of network security bottlenecks.

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 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
Further information:

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>